Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced trade missions to Australia and the United Kingdom.

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared that she would head a trade and promotional delegation to Australia in early July, the country’s first since Covid-19 struck.

Today, Ardern delivered a pre-Budget speech to Business NZ in Auckland titled ‘Reconnecting to the World,’ in which she discussed the border, trade, immigration, and child poverty.

Watch the PM’s pre-Budget speech here:

She said the July trip would aim to “further strengthen business ties with our trans-Tasman partners”.

Trade Minister Damien O’Connor will also travel to London and Brussels next month to discuss negotiations for New Zealand’s free trade agreements with the UK and EU.

“Securing high-quality, comprehensive and inclusive FTAs with the EU and UK expands our market opportunities, playing a big part in our Covid-19 trade recovery strategy and building on what have been long-standing traditional relationships,” Ardern said.

Ardern said O’Connor will be vaccinated ahead of departure and like all returning New Zealanders, he will go through 14 days in MIQ on return.

“These trips may not have been overly notable pre-Covid, but they are hugely significant in light of the domestic realities we’ve been experiencing, and the global ones that still persist.

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“I can also assure you that when our key trading partners over and above Australia look to reopen their borders and we have greater movement between countries, I will look to lead delegations into Europe, the United States, China and the wider Asia-Pacific.”

Jacinda Ardern making a pre-Budget speech to Business NZ in Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

On Budget 2021

She said the New Zealand economy is performing much better than expected over the past 12 months and it is because of the foundations laid in Budget 2020.

“Our March quarterly benefit statistics showed a record number of people have come off the benefit, with nearly 33,000 entering paid work.

“Unemployment dropped to 4.7 percent in the first three months of the year, well down on the 6.5 percent forecast, and low when compared to the average jobless rate across the OECD, which sits at 6.7 percent, and with Australia, where it’s 5.9.

“Exports remain resilient and firms also appear willing to invest more off the back of an improving environment, with imports of capital goods strengthening.”

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She said Budget 2021 will support the recovery but will become more targeted.

“We will continue to focus on our key priorities – keeping New Zealanders safe from Covid, accelerating the recovery and rebuild, and laying the foundations for the future by addressing long term challenges such as housing, climate change and child wellbeing.”

Immigration reforms

Ardern said the government was looking to “shift the balance away from low-skilled work, towards attracting high-skilled migrants”. She said the focus was on filling genuine skills shortages.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi has been working on reforms to temporary work visas and a review of the Skilled Migrant Category visa.

The Productivity Commission is looking into the country’s immigration settings, including the impact of immigration on the labour market, housing and associated infrastructure, and the natural environment.

Earlier this week, the government announced 2400 more RSE workers will be allowed by March next year.

Specialized construction workers are now included in the recent allocations for building projects such as the Auckland City Rail Link, Transmission Gully, and the Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre.

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MIQ spaces will also be available for 400 foreign students.

Ardern began her speech by claiming that so many children lived in low-income homes or were subjected to bigotry, abuse, or brutality, with Mori, Pacific, autistic, and young people faring the worst.

Budget 2021, according to Finance Minister Grant Robertson, “will be a recovery and wellbeing budget”

The details of the Budget will be announced on Thursday, May 20.

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