New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to members of the media at the scene of a fatal hostel fire, in Wellington, New Zealand, 16 May 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/BEN MCKAY AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT

New Zealand PM on Europe tour for free trade pact, NATO summit

Sydney, Australia, July 7 (EFE).- New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins embarked on a European tour Friday to sign a free trade agreement with the European Union and attend a NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital.

The trade agreement will be signed in Brussels by New Zealand’s Trade Minister Damien O’Connor and EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis EU President Ursula von der Leyen.

The agreement, once the two countries ratified, would unlock savings of around NZ$100 million ($62 million), Hipkins said in a speech in Wellington

broadcast on his social networks.

During his European tour, Hipkins will attend the NATO summit in Vilnius as a guest on July 11-12, where the leaders of the transatlantic bloc will discuss boosting ties with Ukraine and increasing their military support amid the war with Russia.

“The world is changing, new threats are emerging, but I am proud I will be there in the middle of it, representing New Zealand and our views,” Hipkins said.

“And let us never forget that our greatest foreign policy touchstones are our independence and our nuclear-free position, they are what help us open doors, help us to act as honest brokers and ultimately keep us safer.”

He said his approach to New Zealand partners overseas was not “too far from my approach at home.”

“I want to focus on the bread and butter issues – things that affect all of our lives, that might seem less lofty but are just as important.”

Hipkins will hold bilateral meetings with other world leaders on the sidelines of the NATO summit.

He will also travel to Sweden to meet with his Swedish counterpart, Ulf Kristersson, and Minister for International Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, Johan Forssell. EFE