WELLINGTON, Feb. 8 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday outlined the government's plan to build greater resilience in the economy in the face of global economic headwinds.
New Zealand will be doubling down on trade and broadening trading base this year to protect its exporters and economy, Ardern said in her speech to Business New Zealand breakfast.
"Expanding free trade with other countries can provide our economy with a buffer against a downturn in any of our markets," Ardern said, adding in particular "we will seek to conclude a high-quality agreement with the European Union, as well as establishing the benchmark for a high-quality model agreement with Britain."
"The New Zealand economy is doing well. We are delivering stronger growth than many of our trading partners and historically low unemployment is seeing more people in work," she said, adding the government books are in solid surplus to protect the country against external shocks and New Zealand families are experiencing solid wage growth.
Meanwhile, this year the government will deliver a world-leading wellbeing budget, which incorporates not just the health of finances but also natural resources, people, and communities, she said.
"It will ensure that those closest to the margins are protected and that no one is left too far behind," Ardern said, adding the wellbeing budget is not only about improving New Zealanders' livelihoods, it is key to ensuring the people are protected from the international headwinds the economy may face.
With global growth slowing down, New Zealand also faces persistent skills gap, which was raised by the business circle saying the gap holds back growth and is a long-term weakness in the local economy, she said.
The prime minister said vocational training is a priority this year and the government will soon be releasing a far-reaching discussion document outlining reform options to ensure the sector is more responsive to business and national and regional skills shortages.