New Zealand's Ardern Wants to Balance Trade Pact With Housing Pledge

Updated on
  • New leader wants crackdown on foreign property speculators
  • TPP negotiations to take next step at November APEC summit

Incoming leader Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand will still seek membership in the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership even as she strives to honor her election campaign pledge to clamp down on foreign property speculators.

“There has to be a balance between delivering for our exporters but also making sure we can protect the ability of New Zealanders to buy homes,” Ardern told Sky News on Sunday. “Our view is we can do both.”

Improving housing affordability is a key target for Ardern after outgoing Prime Minister Bill English was criticized by some voters for failing to respond to a surge in prices that’s seen home ownership fall to the lowest level since 1951. While she wants to encourage construction of cheap, smaller homes, her bid to deter foreign buyers who have helped to drive up values may put the nation at odds with future TPP regulations.

After President Donald Trump withdrew from U.S.-led TPP negotiations shortly after taking office, some of the remaining 11 nations in the pact -- including New Zealand under English -- have lobbied to keep it going. Next month, trade ministers from the TPP group are due to present their proposal for the future of the deal to leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Read more: Jacinda Ardern Set to Become World’s Youngest Female Leader

Ardern, 37, will become the world’s youngest female leader less than three months after taking the reins of Labour. New Zealand First leader Winston Peters backed Ardern to rule on Thursday after 12 days of negotiations, even though her Labour Party finished second in the Sept. 23 election when the ruling National Party failed to secure a majority.

Even though Ardern has worried some investors with policies such as pledging to reform the central bank, cut immigration and boost spending on welfare, she insists that her Labour Party believes in the benefits of free trade.

“We have signed significant free-trade agreements; we’ll continue to do so in the future,” she told Sky News.

Ardern said in a separate interview on Saturday that Labour won’t cut immigration by as much as that demanded by Peters, her coalition partner and kingmaker.

Peters, whose populist appeal has seen him compared to Trump, campaigned in last month’s election campaign to slash immigration to just 10,000 a year from about 73,000. Labour also wants a cut but only by as much as 30,000.

“Labour’s policy remains absolutely unchanged as a result of these negotiations” with Peters, Ardern said in an interview with The Nation broadcast on Saturday.

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