19 Sep 2019

Women's empowerment and space - PM meets with Japanese counterpart

11:50 pm on 19 September 2019

Trade, women's economic empowerment, the Pacific and space were among the broad range of topics that have been discussed by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Japanese counterpart.

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Photo: RNZ / Leilani Momoisea

Ms Ardern is in Japan this week, before heading to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

She was formally welcomed by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, who said she was "reconciling parenting and Prime Ministership" and was a role model for "women around the world".

"New Zealand is a co-operative partner with whom we share universal values", he told reporters.

The two leaders agreed to promote "security and defence co-operation" through high level exchanges and joint training, Mr Abe said.

They also discussed how the two countries could work together for a "free and open" Indo-Pacific.

That would include climate change, capacity building, maritime law enforcement and investment in quality infrastructure.

"Issues" in the East China Sea and South China Sea were also raised, with both countries confirming their commitment to work to "maintain and strengthen maritime order based on law", Mr Abe said.

They would also co-operate on efforts towards a "complete de-nuclearisation" of North Korea.

In the face of global economic head winds New Zealand's economic relationship with Japan was becoming even more important for the economy, Ms Ardern said.

"Japan is our fourth largest trading partner and an important source of high quality investment. Japan has total investments in New Zealand of $5.5 billion, up from less than $1 billion in 2001."

"It's our [New Zealand's] sixth largest tourism market with 115,000 Japanese visitors welcomed to our shores every year."

The important role trade could play in women's economic empowerment was also discussed.

"Studies show that greater inclusion of women in the economy could significantly boost global growth," Ms Ardern said.

"Prime Minister Abe and I agreed to work together with other countries to explore the scope to progress trade and gender issues."

They looked forward to working towards an arrangement on bilateral space cooperation with Japan, which would benefit New Zealand's burgeoning space industry, she said.

They also agreed to develop a Joint Declaration on Pacific Cooperation.

"My hope is that this will be issued by our Foreign Ministers later this year," said Ms Ardern.

Ms Ardern and Mr Abe have also agreed to more information sharing between the two countries.

"On bilateral relations we agree to promote security and defence co-operation through high level exchange and joined training.

"We also welcome the start of the consultation for an international agreement on security of information," Mr Abe said through a translator.

Ms Ardern said the region was facing increasing cyber security threats.

"You'll have seen New Zealand acknowledging that we've experienced attacks from other state actors, this is about making sure we work together as a region, share information, knowledge and know how.

"It's all focused on making sure were are best equipped to keep New Zealanders safe and to understand the environment around us."

There was an opportunity to work with like-minded partners through information sharing, working on cyber security and research, she said.