US vice president 'has a very genuine interest in NZ', Ardern says after dinner together

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she had a "significant conversation" with US Vice President Mike Pence about New Zealand's economic situation, trade issues and family life. 

She said sitting next to Mr Pence's wife, Karen Pence, at the Gala Dinner for East Asian leaders in Singapore was an "excellent opportunity" to have a general conversation with the pair. 

Mike Pence, Karen Pence and Jacinda Ardern.
Mike Pence, Karen Pence and Jacinda Ardern. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand did not get a formal bilateral meeting with the US but Ms Ardern used the dinner to raise issues like the high tariffs imposed by the US on our steel and aluminium.

"We had a general conversation about trade," Ms Ardern said.

She said it would be "remiss" of her not to bring up the issue of the steel and aluminium tariffs the US has put on New Zealand. 

"The US does very well in trade terms with New Zealand and at the same time we do have those tariffs in place so I did take that opportunity to raise that," she said. 

While at the East Asia Summit, the PM made the case for dropping tariffs on Kiwi steel and aluminium. Source: 1 NEWS

"He took on board that feedback and obviously indicated there was an ongoing discussion to be had there. I took from my conversation with the vice president he has a very genuine interest in New Zealand. 

When asked if she was confident the tariffs could be removed, she said it was "all about taking those opportunities to raise the issue, put the case on behalf of New Zealand". 

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration did not include New Zealand in the countries exempted from its steel and aluminium tariffs, a move which has left the NZ government "disappointed".

Ms Ardern said she used the opportunity to "talk about the wider trade proposition".

The PM will raise high steel and aluminium tariffs during the 90-minute face time. Source: Breakfast

"It's not just whether or not there's a tariff in place on specific products, but what benefit could be derived by increasing our trading relationship with the United States in the future."

Winston Peters was asked if Mr Pence's seating request was unusual, to which he answered, "I thought actually it was a rather special request he made, and I think the Prime Minister, I would share her gratitude in having the chance to talk to him."

Jacinda Ardern used a dinner with Mike Pence to raise issues like the high tariffs on our steel and aluminium. Source: 1 NEWS