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Jacinda Ardern shuts down suggestion she met with Finnish leader because of age, gender

ABC News (AU) logo ABC News (AU) 30/11/2022 Felicity Ripper with wires

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has shut down a suggestion from a reporter she has met with Finland Prime Minister Sanna Marin "just because" of similarities such as their age. 

The comments came as Ms Arden held a during a joint press conference with Ms Marin, who is the first Finnish prime minister to visit New Zealand, in Auckland on Wednesday.

"A lot of people will be wondering are you two meeting just because you are similar in age and got a lot of common stuff there … when you got into politics and stuff," the journalist asked as Ms Ardern took the lectern. 

"Or can Kiwis actually expect to see more deals between our two countries down the line?"

Ms Ardern was quick to respond, questioning whether anyone ever asked former New Zealand prime minister John Key and former US president Barack Obama if they met because of their similar age. 

"We of course have a higher proportion of men in politics — it's reality," Ms Ardern said.

"Because two women meet, it's not simply because of their gender. 

"Finland exports into New Zealand $199 million worth of exports." 

She said New Zealand exported $14 million of goods a year to Finland and there was huge potential for future opportunities. 

Fellow journalists and members of the public took to Twitter to express their disappointment at the question posed to the women, with one user describing it as "crass". 

"It's a shame some journalists spoke to them like they are 1950s housewives organising a coffee morning," another posted. 

Further pressed about their roles as women leaders, Ms Ardern said she and Ms Marin felt a responsibility to use their voices on behalf of repressed women, like those in Iran.

"The focus of our conversation is what more we could do together in support of other women in other countries who are facing dire circumstances, where we see the most basic of human rights being repressed and violated," Ms Ardern said.

Improving diplomatic relations was also among the aims of the visit.

"We need hard power when it comes to Ukraine," Ms Marin told reporters when asked what soft-power influence smaller countries like Finland and New Zealand could exert.

"They need weapons, they need financial support, they need humanitarian support, and we need to also make sure that all the refugees fleeing from Ukraine are welcomed to Europe."

Since the war began, both Finland and Sweden have abandoned their longstanding policies of military non-alignment and applied to join NATO.

Both countries are still seeking endorsement from Türkiye.

Ms Marin said the war felt very close to Finland due to the 1,300-kilometre border the country shared with Russia.

She said Finland had already provided 10 shipments of weapons to Ukraine.

"We have to make sure that they will win," Ms Marin said.

She said Western countries also needed to ensure sanctions were "harder and harder against Russia" because the war was affecting not only people in Ukraine but also people worldwide due to higher energy prices.

Ms Marin also brushed off suggestions she was a partying prime minister — a criticism which has emerged since the leak of a video showing her dancing and singing with friends at a private party.

She said she had more important issues to focus on, including the pandemic, the war in Europe, the energy crisis and a looming economic crisis.

"So I had a couple of free days during the summer," Ms Marin said.

"And if the media wants to focus on it, I don't have anything to say.

"You are free to discuss and write what you want, but I'm focusing on the issues that are in our program."

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