A baby kiwi got more of a smile out of the German Chancellor than the charm of John Key yesterday, but Angela Merkel left the Prime Minister with far more than a handful of feathers.

Dr Merkel gave a very strong signal that she will back New Zealand's case for a free trade agreement with the European Union, something New Zealand has sought for years.

Dr Merkel said she and Mr Key had discussed New Zealand's wish for a free trade agreement and she would champion a boost in trade. "I think we should also come out in favour of a free trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand. New Zealand has such agreements with China and other areas of the world."

There was a moment of embarrassment for Mr Key when Dr Merkel was asked about New Zealand's part in the Five Eyes spying arrangement, given her anger at learning the US had listened to her cellphone calls. Red-faced, he assured her that her calls were safe while she was here.

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"If I was the Chancellor I would rest assured she has nothing to fear on her phone calls in New Zealand.

"She's a great friend of New Zealand and if we have any questions of her I'll just ask her. I think that would be the fastest way of resolving any issue. So there's nothing to fear."

But any real embarrassment was saved courtesy of a bit of diplomacy by a 6-week-old kiwi Dr Merkel released on Motutapu.

Mr Key had barely been able to get a smile out of the Chancellor when they first met for a wreath laying at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

But within seconds of being confronted with the small kiwi bundle, the Germanic reserve crumbled. She coo-ed at it as she patted away, despite a bit of beak thrashing by the bird, clearly cranky at having its beauty sleep disturbed.

At a press conference afterwards, she gave her critique with enthusiasm and a big grin, describing the texture of the feathers as similar to fur. "Very smooth fur - very soft, very pleasant. It was a very pleasant experience.

"I was told this long beak does not lead to him actually nipping you, it simply shows he's a bit nervous."

More-serious weapons will be on the agenda when the leaders get to Australia for the G20 summit today.

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The main summit will address economic issues and attempts to ensure the global economy is more resilient. But on the sidelines, talk will revolve around Islamic State and the Russia-Ukraine problem.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be there and has caused controversy by sending Russian warships towards Australian waters in an apparent show of strength.