Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Abe chews over issues but no word on tariffs

Leaders’ discussions touch on quakes, trade, rugby, wine — and whaling.

Sports students meet the leaders during Shinzo Abe's brief visit. Photo / Greg Bowker
Sports students meet the leaders during Shinzo Abe's brief visit. Photo / Greg Bowker

It may have been a little early for wine, but Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, was on a tight schedule in Auckland so lunch at Villa Maria winery started about 11.45am.

He told the largely business crowd that once the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement was concluded, "I believe such a wonderful wine can be readily available in Japan at an inexpensive price".

That, of course, depends largely on Mr Abe himself and what stance his negotiators take in the 12-country talks, but there was no hint yesterday about where the final agreement will rest in terms of tariff and quota removal.

In their speeches before lunch, Mr Abe and Prime Minister John Key both acknowledged the earthquake disasters in each other's countries in 2011.

Mr Key thanked Mr Abe for the rescue teams Japan sent to help after the Christchurch quake, in which 28 Japanese died.

And Mr Key said NZ's head of search and rescue had approached him personally to ask that the Kiwi team be sent to help in Japan, despite being extremely tired, "to repay the debt of gratitude that was owed to the Japanese people".

All Black Conrad Smith was on hand yesterday to help the two Prime Ministers promote the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019 and to launch a pilot programme called Game On English - for young Japanese sports teams to come to New Zealand for intensive sports coaching and intensive English language lessons.

Girls from Iwami Chisuikan High School are the first pilot group and demonstrated sevens play for the leaders and business groups at the Mangere winery.

In their formal talks the leaders discussed a Japanese Cabinet decision to allow Japanese forces to help defend allies - including the United States and Australia - termed "collective self-defence". Japan's pacifist constitution allows combat only in self-defence on its territory.

They discussed whaling as well in light of the International Court of Justice decision in March deeming Japan's programme in the Southern Ocean unlawful on the grounds it was not scientific.

Mr Abe said Japan would abide by the court's decision but it is not yet known whether that will mean further whaling but under more limited criteria.

Mr Abe and his wife stopped in Christchurch on their way to Australia and laid a wreath at a memorial on the site of the former CTV building.

Mr Abe is the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit in 12 years. His grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit NZ, in 1957.

Mr Key told Mr Abe his daughter, Stephie, learned Japanese at school. She now studies art in Paris, and famously dressed herself in sushi as an artwork.

Prime Ministers talk
• Shinzo Abe and John Key discussed the Japanese Cabinet's decision which will allow Japanese forces to help defend allies.
• Whaling was also discussed in light of the International Court of Justice decision in March.
• Mr Abe said Japan would obey the court decision but it is not yet known if that will mean further whaling but under a more limited criteria.
• Mr Abe is the first Japanese PM to visit New Zealand in 12 years.

- NZ Herald

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