U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has spoken by phone with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, adding to the list of world leaders who have congratulated him on his election even as President Donald Trump refuses to concede and challenges the outcome.
The Biden-Harris transition issued a statement late Sunday, saying Biden thanked the prime minister for her congratulations, offered his own on her re-election and expressed his intent to strengthen the U.S.-New Zealand partnership. Ardern was re-elected in October.
The statement also said Biden looks forward to working closely with Ardern on common challenges, including containing COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, reinforcing multilateralism, strengthening democracy, and maintaining a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Ardern later said she offered to share her nation's expertise on dealing with the coronavirus. Trump has refused to authorize his administration to cooperate with Biden as the former vice president transitions to power.
Speaking to reporters in Wellington after the call, Ardern described the conversation as warm and said Biden spoke very favorably about how New Zealand was handling the pandemic.
New Zealand is widely heralded as one of the most successful countries in suppressing the infection. It has recorded just over 2,000 cases and 25 deaths, a feat achieved through strict lockdowns and closing of its borders.
Ardern said Biden wanted to pursue the discussion on New Zealand's response further. But she cautioned that replicating the nation’s model everywhere may not be possible.
She said, "While New Zealand has a number of natural advantages that have assisted us in managing the virus, I do absolutely believe that international cooperation continues to be key to getting the virus under control and we are happy to work with any country to share our knowledge and data if it's helpful."
Ardern said she and Biden also discussed trade issues.
In the statement released by the Biden team, he praised Ardern's "extraordinary leadership" following a 2019 mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques, and as a working mother and role model.