Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern returns to New Zealand on Monday after a frantic week in New York.

The NZ Herald's Claire Trevett sat down with her for a talk about whether New Zealand now looks more to Europe than the United States, Clarke Gayford's tweets, curtseying to Candice Bergen and Neve.

Q:

Have you found this week challenging in terms of the breadth of foreign affairs involved and range of issues?

A: No, it would be my expectation that when you bring every leader into an environment where it's so heightened at the moment that there would be a range of issues on the agenda.

We came in with a particular list of things I wanted to achieve, around the trade agenda, lifting the profile of climate change and just re-stating some solid values that extend beyond me that we've had as a country for decades.

Advertisement

In that regard I think we've achieved what we wanted to do, but those challenges are still there.

Q: When you say the environment is "heightened", what do you mean?

A: Oh, tit for tat trade wars, different perspectives on the way we deal with nuclear issues in the Middle East, challenges to multilateralism. Yeah - it's heightened.

Q: All of which go back to one man. Who could that be?

A: [laughs] I did use his name yesterday, to be fair. [Ardern had not referred to Donald Trump by name all week].

The thing that hasn't come through quite so much and probably should is that there are a range of areas where we do co-operate with the United States and continue to.

In the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula, and on trade. That still exists, and that's the day-to-day diplomacy.

Q: New Zealand has traditionally been guided to some extent by other countries in responding to international events. Is that now primarily Europe rather than the US?

A: We've always followed an independent foreign policy, it just so happened that independent foreign policy was aligned with others.

We haven't moved. But I think perhaps there has been a tendency in the last period where others have moved.

Q: There seems to have been quite an influx of new, young leaders, the likes of Austria's Sebastian Kurz (32), Ireland's Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (39), Colombia's President Ivan Duque (42) and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (46). What are they like?

A: All of them were useful connections to make. There's no doubt though that for Europe with that focus on the FTA that meeting Taoiseach and the Prime Minister of Spain that was helpful for us in that regard and also Austria has the Presidency at the moment. And of Colombia, a really critical time for us with the Pacific Alliance.

Q: Did you hit it off quite well with Sanchez? I heard you swapped numbers. Did you swap numbers with anybody else?

A: [laughs] Yes. The Dutch Prime Minister [Mark Rutte].

Jacinda Ardern says she swapped phone numbers with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the United Nations.
Jacinda Ardern says she swapped phone numbers with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez at the United Nations.

Q:

Clarke's tweets. He's had some good tweets. Do you see them before they went out?

A: No. I know about them usually when other people ask me about them or comment on them.

He waits until it's raised with me or I read it in a newspaper.

He is his own social media person. I do not look. He's his own person, so leave him to his own devices on Twitter.

Q: Do you trust him not to tweet a massive SNAFU?

A: No [laughs at length]. No.

Q: We were also slightly concerned because Neve appears to be headless in all his photos of her.

A: We don't post photos of her face, you'll notice. When we're moving around and doing our jobs, images of her are going to be captured and we accept that.

But we don't deliberately set out to put her out there. We don't deliberately put her face out there.

"There's been some unfortunate timing," Ardern says of having Neve at the United Nations.

Q:

How have you all coped, travelling with Neve?

A: You can plan everything but you cannot plan when and where a baby needs to toilet. There's been some unfortunate timing.

Q: Were you nervous before the Late Show?

A: I actually didn't feel too bad. Candice Bergen [actor in Murphy Brown], I ran into her as I was going out to go on stage though and she shook my hand. And I curtseyed.

I have no idea why. And then I said to her 'I just curtseyed." And she lol'ed.

Q: Who else did you catch up with?

A: I've made a few friends in the Caribbean. Saint Lucia, Jamaica and myself, we all on the bus at CHOGM had a long discussion about plastics. And when we caught up we all discovered we'd since done something about plastic bags since our bus chat.