The government’s 20 trips abroad in April

Editor’s note: First published 6.01am, 26 April. The headline has been amended to reflect the Speaker’s delegations were made on behalf of Parliament, not the government. However, those trips did include three government MPs.

Fourteen government ministers and MPs have visited or will visit at least 18 countries in 22 trips this month, as they strive to “raise the energy” of diplomatic engagements.

The promise was one of the points in the government’s second-quarter plan unveiled at the start of the month.

To “raise the energy New Zealand brings to key relationships through international engagements, focussing on our traditional partners, the Pacific, and South East and South Asia”.

This raising of energy is a goal that can be hard to quantify, but the government certainly seems committed to making a large number of visits.

A two-week recess block – when Parliament is not sitting – in the middle of the month provided ample opportunity for ministers to spend some time abroad.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters was the most well travelled minister, stopping in six countries: Belgium, Egypt, Poland, Sweden, the United States and – representing New Zealand for Anzac Day – Turkey.

It required a bit of creativity, with the NZDF’s luggage including instruments and uniforms having been lost in transit.

Several other representatives also attended Anzac Day commemorations, with Defence Minister Judith Collins paying respects to fallen New Zealand soldiers at the Dawn Service at Buttes New British Cemetery near Passchendaele in Belgium; Justice Minister Paul Goldsmith in London; Speaker Gerry Brownlee taking a delegation to Niue; and Parliamentary Undersecretary Jenny Marcroft heading to New Caledonia.

Brownlee also took an earlier Speaker’s delegation to the Cook Islands. These are undertaken on behalf of Parliament with MPs from multiple parties.

Marcroft participated in the Anzac Dawn Service at Place Bir Hakeim in Nouméa, and attends a second service at the New Zealand War Cemetery on Friday in honour of the thousands of New Zealand military personnel based at the 3rd division’s Bourail headquarters.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was of course joined by Climate Minister Simon Watts for his tour of Southeast Asia, as well as New Zealand’s first Filipino MP Paulo Garcia. They travelled together to Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

Each of the three joint statements Luxon released alongside his Southeast Asian counterparts highlighted the South China Sea and pointed specifically to concerns over recent developments there.

They affirmed the right of freedom of navigation and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea – saying all states should pursue peaceful resolution in accordance with international law – a statement pointed at China’s increased presence in the area.

The government’s most visited country this month was the United States, with three ministers – Peters, Space Minister Judith Collins, and Finance Minister Nicola Willis – all attending separate engagements there at different times.

With the US visits and the government’s statements on the South China Sea, it makes sense that Trade Minister Todd McClay would spend six days shoring up New Zealand’s relationship in China, our largest trading partner.

With Marcroft’s trip to New Caledonia and Brownlee’s delegations to the Cook Islands and Niue, the Pacific is getting some face time. Peters’ visit to Washington DC also resulted in joint investments with the United States of $8.2m to boost internet connectivity across the region with the Pacific Connect Cable, and a further $8.2m for an oceans and fisheries research vessel being primarily funded by Australia.

That country was also visited by NZ First’s Rural Communities and Associate Agriculture Minister Mark Patterson, promoting New Zealand wool at the International Wool Textile Organisation Congress in Adelaide, and visiting a zero carbon farm near Hamilton, Victoria. He promptly reopened the world’s largest wool scouring facility in Napier after a $50 million refurbishment just a couple of days after returning.

Plenty of energy certainly seemed to be put into the ministers’ various social media accounts, with McClay posing with kiwifruit, Peters watching the solar eclipse and being presented with a birthday cake in the US, and Collins getting stuck in a packed lift in Europe.

Luxon made the most of his trip for the socials too, having breakfast with a Singaporean influencer, taking a Tuk Tuk tour of Bangkok that Watts clearly enjoyed, and updating his bromance status with BongBong Marcos, the Philippines President.

Whether the energy levels of the trip exceeded those of his predecessors is rather subjective, but Luxon absolutely rated his own success, saying he was returning home “excited and energised”.

The government’s itinerary

Australia: Rural Communities Minister Mark Patterson, 16-20 April, attending International Wool Textile Organisation Congress in Adelaide, meet with Victoria’s Agriculture Minister Ros Spence in Melbourne, visit National Centre for Farmer Health in Hamilton, Victoria

Belgium: Foreign Minister Winston Peters, 3-4 April, attending the NATO foreign ministers meeting, Defence Minister Judith Collins, 25-27 April, Anzac day commemorations

China: Trade Minister Todd McClay, 13-19 April, trade meetings

Cook Islands: Speaker Gerry Brownlee leads a delegation with Tangi Utikere (Labour), Vanessa Weenink (National), Greg O’Connor (Labour) and Scott Willis (Greens), 17 April. Meet with Cook Islands Speaker, Ombudsman, Auditor and Youth Leaders, engage in workshops with local MPs, and meet with the NZ High Commission

Egypt: Foreign Minister Winston Peters, 1 April, bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gait

France: Space Minister Judith Collins, 21-24 April, OECD Science and Tech ministerial meeting, Paris

Italy, Switzerland and UK: Justice and Arts Minister Paul Goldsmith 22 April to 2 May, attending the UN’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, attending Anzac commemorations in London and Justice and Arts officials meetings in London and Edinburgh, and Justice and Arts officials meetings in Venice

New Caledonia: Oceans and Fisheries Parliamentary Under-Secretary Jenny Marcroft, 24-27 April, Anzac Day service and opening of new Pacific Community science facility

Niue: Speaker Gerry Brownlee leads a delegation with Ayesha Verrall (Labour), Tangi Utikere (Labour), Katie Nimon (National) and Hūhana Hickey (Greens), 23-26 April, meet Niue’s Premier, Cabinet, and Speaker and attend Anzac commemoration at National War Memorial in Alofi

Philippines: Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Climate Minister Simon Watts, National MP Paulo Garcia, 18-19 April, meet President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Romualdez Marcos Jr

Poland: Foreign Minister Winston Peters, 2 April, bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and a visit to Ukraine House, a community organisation that helps Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw

Singapore: Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Climate Minister Simon Watts, National MP Paulo Garcia, 15-16 April, meet PM Lee Hsien Loong, deputy/incoming PM Lawrence Wong, and President Tharman Shanmugaratnam; Education Minister Erica Stanford, 20-25 April, International Summit on Teaching Profession

Sweden: Foreign Minister Winston Peters, 5-6 April, bilateral meetings with Foreign Minister Tobias Billström

Thailand: Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, Climate Minister Simon Watts, National MP Paulo Garcia, 17 April, meet Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin

Turkey: Foreign Minister Winston Peters, 22-28 April, meet President and Foreign Minister in Istanbul, attend Anzac dawn service at Gallipoli, NZ national service at Chunuk Bair, Australia national service at Lone Pine

United States of America: Foreign Minister Winston Peters, 6-12 April, UN General Assembly address in New York, meet with UN Secretary General António Guterres and – in Washington DC – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken; Space Minister Judith Collins, 8-14 April, International Space Symposium, Colorado; Finance Minister Nicola Willis, 16-20 April, IMF and World Bank spring meetings, Five Finance Ministers meeting

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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