New Zealand PM to boost cooperation, promote ties in first China visit

2023-06-26 08:35:21Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, bringing a business delegation of 29 representatives from various fields, is making his first trip to China starting from Sunday, with a dual focus to boost the country's economy and promote ties with its largest trading partner.

In the increasingly complex international situation and with the Biden administration accelerating its alliance-building, New Zealand has set a good example for Western countries of how to balance its relations with both China and the US, and maintain strategic autonomy, experts said.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, Hipkins is paying an official visit to China from June 25 to 30, and will attend the 14th Annual Meeting of the New Champions, also known as the Summer Davos Forum, in Tianjin at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Qiang.

Hipkins is accompanied by 29 delegates, representing a wide range of export sectors including tourism and education, said the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), the country's international business development agency.

"In the past, many may think that New Zealand, as a relatively small country, lacked diplomatic autonomy, but in fact it has more say in various aspects including economy and national defense, even more than its neighboring country Australia," Chen Hong, director of the New Zealand Studies Center at East China Normal University, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Grasping a major chance as the world enters the post-pandemic era, New Zealand has been able to exclude all kinds of pressures and influences to strengthen its relationship with China, setting a good example for other US allies of balancing well between its own interests in cooperating with China and its relations with Western countries, Chen said.

China-New Zealand relations have maintained positive development over the past decades, with New Zealand making many "firsts" with China, for example, the first Western country to support China's accession to the WTO and the first country to sign a free trade agreement with China, Shen Shishun, an Asia-Pacific affairs expert at the China Institute of International Studies, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Against the backdrop of growing protectionism and unilateralism, Hipkins' first visit to China underscores the importance the New Zealand government attaches to its major trading partner, Shen said.

The economic and trade cooperation between China and New Zealand is complementary and has served as a ballast stone for bilateral relations, Shen said. China has reportedly been New Zealand's largest trading partner for years, accounting for around 30 percent of New Zealand's exports of goods and services, according to the website of the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand.

During Hipkins' visit, the two countries may strive to seek in-depth cooperation in more fields in addition to trade, tourism and education, Shen said, suggesting that the two sides continue to uphold multilateralism and win-win cooperation to deepen their friendly cooperation.

Chen believes that another focus for Hipkins' visit is to boost its tourism industry. As an important pillar for New Zealand's economic development, the tourism sector has always seen Chinese visitors as a strong driving force, and it is eagerly looking forward to welcoming Chinese tourists back to New Zealand in the post-pandemic era.

In addition, Hipkins is believed to wish to attract more Chinese students to New Zealand universities through this tour, Chen said, as most universities in the country have high rankings in the world and are known for their multicultural environment.

Hipkins said prior to his visit that China is a "critical part of our economic recovery," as China represents nearly one-quarter of all New Zealand's exports, was our second largest source of tourists pre-COVID and is a significant source of international students, according to a release on the website of the New Zealand government.

"The export of traditional goods like dairy, meat and wood to China remain important, but it's critical we also throw our support behind emerging sectors such as gaming and health and wellness," he said, read the government release.

"The first visit of a New Zealand prime minister to China since 2019 is a symbol of the strength of the relationship between the two countries in the post-pandemic era," Teh-han Chow, Greater China CEO, Fonterra Co-operative Group, told the Global Times on Sunday.

As a New Zealand company with thriving business operations in China, Fonterra is eagerly anticipating the Hipkins' visit, and believes that the visit will positively impact the bilateral relationship between the two countries, Chow said.


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