While the economic aspect is clearly a matter of importance to any political leader, Ardern has chosen not to make the economy the focus of her administration. As Ardern’s area of expertise also lies elsewhere as a ‘people-person’, her focus is instead on complimenting NZ’s values by maintaining strong economic relationships.
NZ’s special relationship with Australia remains their closest ally in all cases of foreign policy, with reference to economics and The Trans-Tasman Travel Agreement, but Arden like her liberal appeasing policy approach stuck to the status quo. During Ardern’s time as PM, New Zealand and Australia have faced various challenges with which both nations responded in solidarity and support of one another.
Kiwis and Aussies: Maintaining the Sibling Rivalry
New Zealand and Australia are famously two very close nations, with their deepest connection arguably lying in their economic relationship. Ardern’s expertise clearly lies in communication and socio-cultural efforts. Her expertise in economic and financial policies are rather limited, leaving financial and economic ministerial positions for the more highly qualified. Ardern builds teams with those with the required skills for when she proposes, demonstrating a strong self-awareness in which she works with her strengths.
As for New Zealand’s relationship with Australia, it is so strategically significant and interwoven that maintenance of such a relationship is key. Even the mere suggestion of cutting ties with the nation will harm Ardern to a point of no return. This is why Ardern has had to tread with absolute caution in reference to establishing a travel bubble between the two nations during the pandemic. Her unwillingness to rush into such an agreement was carefully framed to show trust and good faith in their ‘cousins from across the ditch’. Ardern effectively avoided and rejected any criticisms coming from both her audience at home and in Australia, of not valuing the relationship enough. Such a mistake could have cost Ardern a lot of credibility on a widespread scale.
Meanwhile, the Christchurch terrorist Attack posed a potential snag in the road, in which New Zealand and Australia would either face adversity together or in the extreme, find the beginnings of an end to their relationship. As the economic relationship between the two nations forms the biggest part of their diplomatic relationship, both Ardern and Scott Morrison, Australian PM, worked very hard to maintain this. As the shooter of the attack is an Australian national, some assumed this would drive a wedge between the two nations. Both leaders, however, were adamant in their efforts to use this as an opportunity to further deepen the roots of their economic relationships.
Covid-19 Economic Response
Another demonstration of Ardern’s values can be seen in the economy during the pandemic. Ardern and her ministers have decided that they will be taking a 20% pay cut for six months in support of the economic crisis. This act is a further example of the symbolic gestures Ardern has made her career out of, taking the phrase ‘actions speak louder than words’ very seriously. In essence, she has established her credibility throughout Parliament and the nation.