New Zealand Prime Minister-elect unlikely to attend APEC as coalition talks continue

FILE PHOTO: Christopher Luxon, leader of New Zealand's National Party waves to supporters

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s Prime Minister-elect Christopher Luxon said on Monday that it was unlikely he would attend the APEC meeting in San Francisco later this week as coalition negotiations are ongoing.

The conservative National Party won the largest share of votes at last month’s general election but needs the support of both right-wing ACT New Zealand and the populist New Zealand First Parties to form a majority government.

Following the release of final results on Nov. 3, talks have ramped up and continued over the weekend but there is still no timeframe for when an agreement would be reached.

Luxon told 1News that he does not expect to attend APEC as "good progress" is being made by the two parties and he wants to ensure negotiations conclude and a government is formed.

"It's important that I focus on that, that's the must-do job. I think that's why it's unlikely I'll head out to APEC on Wednesday evening," he said.

"I'd love to go, because I do want to signal that New Zealand is open for business and I do want to be able to build rapport and relationships with those key world leaders.”

Currently, the former Labour government is operating in caretaker mode until a coalition is formed. If Luxon does not attend APEC, New Zealand will send a representative from both the caretaker government and a National Party member.

New Zealand operates a mixed member proportional system, which means coalition governments are the norm and historically it takes roughly a month for a government to be formed but can take longer.

(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; editing by Diane Craft)