Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wrapped up her East Asia Summit in tropical Bangkok last night with a meeting of the 16 leaders in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

And while they trumpeted progress with on the rules of a trade deal that would include the two largest populations in the world, India and China, the very reluctant India has been given until February 2020 to negotiate market access deals with the other 15.

All the other 15 countries (the 10 Asean countries, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand) have concluded their market access deals.

Speaking to reporters Ardern said it was felt that now was the time to demonstrate that there would be a benefit to make progress now in the current trade environment with increasing protectionism.


Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said New Zealand would need to have dairy included in any market access agreement but it would need to be in a complementary way, not a competitive way.

India's Prime Minister, Narenda Modi. Photo / AP
India's Prime Minister, Narenda Modi. Photo / AP

The East Asia Summit has been a hectic schedule for Ardern, arriving at 1 pm Sunday and leaving at 10 pm Monday local time.

On her one night there, Bangkok put on a massive lightning and thunder display after the leaders' gala dinner.

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PM Jacinda Ardern speaking in Bangkok about the upgrade with agriculture minister Damien O’Connor. Video / Audrey Young

It has also been a summit of meeting old acquaintances - not a single leader among them was new.

Having attended her first Apec and East Asia Summit straight after being sworn in 2017, and having attended two United Nations' leaders' week, most leaders in Bangkok were very familiar faces.

Earlier yesterday, Ardern and Premier Li Keqiang of China announced the upgrade of the 2008 China free trade agreement at a meeting.

For Ardern, it was the high point of the trip, concluding negotiations that had begun under National.


She caught up with global players such as UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the managing director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva.

She sat next to Indonesian President Joko Widodo for three hours at the gala dinner where she raised the issue, among others, of access to its province Papua.

Ardern also met with the United States National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien between the East Asia Summit and the RCEP meeting.

US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Ardern was a
US National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien said Ardern was a "rock star." Photo / Audrey Young

Posing for photographs with her, he said: "Your Prime Minister is a rock star here. She just gave a great talk at the summit."

The pair met at the United Nations in September during her meeting with President Donald Trump.

She also held meetings with the leaders of Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand at which the Thai Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha courted New Zealand's help in developing the sheep placenta cream industry.

Ardern told reporters last night that yesterday she presented him with a box of sheep placenta cream. He had told her he had become a brand ambassador for the product.

The Vietnamese Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, asked after her daughter Neve.

"Thank-you Prime Minister for asking after her. She is not with me. She is much more popular than I am though so next time, maybe I should bring her."

Ardern in her opening remarks made reference to the gift he had presented her with in Danang at Apec in 2017, a portrait of herself.

Next year's East Asia Summit is to be held in Vietnam.

Ardern recounted with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc the surprise gift he gave her in 2017, a portrait. Photo / Supplied
Ardern recounted with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc the surprise gift he gave her in 2017, a portrait. Photo / Supplied