Luxon rubs shoulders with world leaders

Date:

By Jo Moir of RNZ 

Analysis – The Prime Minister is set to meet the leaders of France, Canada and Estonia as his first big diplomatic test continues in the United States.

Christopher Luxon attended the NATO 75th anniversary dinner in Washington, DC, where he used his time well, getting introductions with 13 different leaders.

He is yet to meet with either US President Joe Biden or Britain’s Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer, but it’s expected he’ll get that chance at the White House dinner later on Thursday (NZ time).

Ahead of the dinner Luxon was scheduled to have a meeting with senior Republican Ted Cruz but due to Hurricane Beryl in Texas, Cruz has been unable to get to Washington on time. 

The Senator for Texas ran against Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries and is expected to be a big player in any future Trump administration.

Luxon will be disappointed to miss the opportunity to meet with him. It was meant to be a big day of Republican catch-ups for Luxon to balance out the lunch and talks he had with senior Democrat Jon Ossoff on Wednesday.

While Cruz is off, Luxon will still meet with Senator Bill Hagerty, a former US ambassador to Japan under Trump’s administration.

Haggerty is being tipped as Secretary of State if Trump wins the presidency on November 5.

The New Zealand government’s Washington office has made sure Luxon has got face time with some pivotal politicians of both stripes, and he has certainly brought high business energy to those meetings.

Later today, Luxon will move his attention away from a US focus and sit down for bilateral talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Estonia Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.

Like New Zealand, Estonia is a small-advanced economy, and Luxon will be keen to hear from Kallas about how they do business.

Mostly though he’ll be interested in any insights to the situation in Russia and Ukraine.

Estonia shares a border with Russia and Kallas will have crucial intel on the neighbouring countries that Luxon will be keen to get briefed on.

The big issue being discussed this week between the North-Atlantic leaders is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and both NATO and New Zealand have already committed more funding and resources this week to help Ukraine in its defence.

There’s a real feeling within the Indo-Pacific that what happens in Europe significantly impacts everyone else.

New Zealand, Japan, Australia and Korea will be keen to discuss the rules-based order with US and European leaders, and how it’s being felt in the Indo-Pacific with the cost of living crisis and pressures from the likes of China – a friend of Russia.

President Joe Biden’s determination to contest the presidency later this year continues to be a feature of talks, at least on the sidelines, here in the US.

He might have hoped the debate about his health would simmer down – at least while world leaders are in the US and there’s other issues to focus on.

It seems that won’t be the case after actor and donor George Clooney penned an opinion piece for the New York Times that has landed on the eve of the council meeting of leaders.

In it he calls for Biden to stand down, saying he doesn’t believe the Democrats will win if he continues.

The pressure is on Biden to put on a good performance in all his public-facing appearances this week, as he tries to convince his party and the public that he’s still up to the job.

Luxon might have some of his own insights on that after he meets, albeit briefly, with Biden.

Whatever his assessment is, it won’t be one he will be sharing publicly.

While Biden put on a reasonable show in his NATO opening speech yesterday, he was relying very much on a teleprompter and was difficult to understand in places.

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