Ardern to meet Trump?

Shaking off the political unease stirred up by sexual harassment allegations by a Labour Party staffer in her department, PM Jacinda Ardern hopes to meet President Donald Trump in New York next week. This would be a first for her and will follow up on the meetings Deputy PM Winston Peters has had in Washington DC.

The meeting would precede the UN General Assembly and represents a major step for the PM. Topics likely to be covered include the Christchurch Call to Action, trade and Pacific affairs. Officials note that while this falls short of a full White House visit (Australian PM Scott Morrison arrives in Washington this week for a state visit), it represents a major step for her – and an unusual departure for President Trump who confines his separate bilateral calls to a minimum while at the General Assembly.

Ardern will find it politically useful to have a different set of headlines to those she has faced.

She will be hoping to recreate more positive images of her leadership, and somehow offset the impression her popularity is sliding.

That will be important if pollsters like Colmar Brunton are currently sampling opinion.

Meanwhile the hard realities of the international environment are pressing in on leaders round the world: the US and China seem to be inching back from a Western front-style trade war – but the damage has already been done. The major economies are sliding towards recession.

In Britain there is no clear signal yet on the way out of the Brexit imbroglio. The Scottish courts have weighed in on the legality of PM Boris Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament and this will be heard in the coming week by the UK Supreme Court.

Johnson will have a “working lunch” with the European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker next week. The Daily Telegraph reports there is optimism in London that a breakthrough on the Irish backstop could unlock the Brexit talks. He will also meet Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

The eternal optimist, Johnson claims he is “cautiously optimistic” ahead of his visit and says talks with other EU leaders, particularly Germany, France and Ireland, indicated a “good deal of progress”. But Brexit has opened up old Northern Irish wounds and he is hurtling towards his self-inflicted deadline of 31 October for leaving the EU with or without a deal.

Donald Trump sacked his most recent National Security Adviser John Bolton. There has been talk of major policy clashes but in reality Trump likes to work through a succession of advisers. Bolton has been well disposed towards New Zealand. However foreign minister Winston Peters has a good working relationship with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. There’s talk that Pompeo may also do the NSA role, as Henry Kissinger did with Richard Nixon.

There will be plenty to talk at the UN with the Christchurch Call to Action, although French President Macron may not attend – and Australia’s PM Scott Morrison won’t be there either.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired a shot across the UK’s bows by staying that the Democrats, and probably Republicans, would kill a trade deal unless the Northern Ireland Good Friday peace agreement is preserved in full.

So life at the Beehive might not seem to bad at present, despite the recent uncomfortable headlines.

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