Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she was "heartened" to get French President Emmanuel Macron's support for free trade talks to begin with the EU - but both Macron and Ardern said the agreement would not take the traditional form.

After a 45 minute long meeting, Macron threw his support behind the talks and said it could be the standard bearer for a "new generation" of trade agreements.

He said that meant including measures on climate change and social responsibility.

"The agreement between New Zealand and the EU can serve as a model in this respect."


Afterward, Ardern said she had achieved what she had come for.

"One of my key objectives in visiting France as part of this visit to Europe was the EU FTA. It represents $15 billion worth of trade. It is hugely significant to us."

The vote on whether to begin proper negotiations is expected in May and Ardern said she wanted to build as broad support as possible.

"We've had a sense that in the past there may have been roadblocks to achieving that mandate. The sense I've come away from today is that our focus on building an agreement that models environmental standards, social outcomes, is something France is very much in support of."

She said while nothing was certain "I come away from this visit much more hopeful that I went in".


Ardern invited Macron to visit New Zealand and while he did not make a firm commitment, he did raise it himself afterward saying he had been given "an opportunity" to visit. It would be the first ever visit by a French President.

"It would be a very significant visit. But I think if it did happen it would speak to some of the things we are interested in working on together," Ardern said.


He is due to head to New Caledonia and Australia in May but Ardern said demands on his time would prevent a visit then.

"If there were future visits to the Pacific it would be a prime opportunity to add New Zealand to the list."

In return, he invited Ardern back to Paris in November for a Peace Forum in November.


One of those areas they are working on together was New Zealand leading talks for a Carbon Neutrality Coalition for those countries which had committed to that target and she hoped that to be set up later in the year.

Macron praised Ardern for the "courageous commitments" she had made on climate change since coming into power.

"We must act.

"We have a joint action to undertake and I would like our partnership to be a defining one."


Ardern said it was also an opportunity to talk about other international events - including the missile strikes on Syria by France, the USA and UK as punishment for the use of chemical weapons.

Ardern has stopped short of saying New Zealand 'supported' those strikes - while others including Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have all publicly stated they supported them.

Ardern instead said she accepted the reasons for those strikes given Russia's veto had prevented a UN Security Council resolution and "there were very few options available."

Asked if he had hoped for a stronger expression of support, Macron said he thanked New Zealand for its "constant commitment" in the coalition which was fighting Isis, which was the enemy but did not address the Syria issue specifically. He said the Assad regime was using it as an excuse to take inappropriate action. He said a solution was needed to allow Syria to eventually achieve peace.

"I didn't say the US or France were going to remain militarily engaged over time in Syria. We have one military goal in Syria and one alone: the war on ISIS."

He said the missile strikes was one targeted operation for the maintenance of international law.

Ardern said she had raised the issue of the strikes with Macron.

"I raised it because I was interested in his perceptive around our ability to return to that multilateral approach - an aspiration he obviously shares."

She hoped the matter would return to the UN now for a mandate to address chemical weapons and the actions of the Assad regime.

"We are not alone in that aspiration. We cannot give up on the use of international rules of law to try to put pressure on these regimes." She said the actions were immoral and illegal.


Ardern also met Canada PM Justin Trudeau, who said before they went in to meet that they intended to talk about the Comprehensive and Progressive Free Trade Agreement (the CPTT) - possibly the renewed comments from US President Donald Trump that he was considering trying to rejoin it