New Zealand ‘won’t choose sides’ between US and China on trade
Comments from trade minister come as Premier Li Keqiang arrives in Wellington
New Zealand said on Sunday it did not plan to “choose sides” on trade between the United States and China, as Premier Li Keqiang arrived for a visit focused on the issue.
New Zealand in 2008 became the first developed nation to sign a free trade agreement with Beijing and China is now the country’s second-largest commercial partner, with two-way trade worth NZ$23 billion (US$16.2 billion) last year.
Both sides agreed late last year to upgrade the deal, and Li’s visit is seen as a way to speed up negotiations.
New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay said closer ties with Beijing need not affect relations with Washington, which withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) regional trade deal after US President Donald Trump took office.
The pull-out has jeopardised the future of the TPP, which would have included New Zealand but excluded China.
China is pushing a rival pact known as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which would include New Zealand.
“No, we don’t have to choose sides,” McClay told TVNZ.
“Wherever there is an agreement or an opportunity that delivers a greater fairness for New Zealanders in the US or China ... then New Zealand will look at that.”
Li, who has just wrapped up a trade mission to Australia, will hold talks with Prime Minister Bill English in Wellington on Monday.
He will meet business leaders in Auckland on Tuesday before departing early on Wednesday.