Hipkins' visit to bolster Beijing, Wellington ties

2023-06-26 09:42:35China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

High-level meetings expected to help manage bilateral, regional challenges, experts say

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins' scheduled visit to China this week is expected to enhance bilateral relations and contribute to post-pandemic regional stability, according to experts.

The visit, the first by a New Zealand prime minister in four years, will provide a "valuable chance for both countries to discuss a wide range of issues directly and openly", said Alistair Crozier, executive director of the New Zealand China Council.

It is also an opportunity for Hipkins and the 29-member business delegation traveling with him "to understand how China's economy and society have further evolved over the past few years, and how this could impact our important bilateral trade and business relationship", Crozier said.

China remains New Zealand's biggest trading partner, accounting for 23 percent of its total trade and 31 percent of its exports.

"I'm looking forward to meeting with China's leadership through various face-to-face bilateral meetings," Hipkins said in a statement on June 19. "China represents nearly a quarter of all our exports, was our second-largest source of tourists pre-COVID and is a significant source of international students, so it's a critical part of our economic recovery."

The delegation traveling with the New Zealand prime minister will include representatives from the tourism and education sectors, which were severely hit by the pandemic.

Jason Young, associate professor of political science and international relations at Victoria University of Wellington, said the resumption of in-person high-level meetings is a positive signal. "These are important for strengthening cooperation and managing issues in the bilateral relationship," he said.

In-person official dialogues on climate change and foreign affairs, among other topics, are important for exploring areas of future cooperation and managing bilateral and regional challenges, said Young, who is also director of the university's New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre.

A spokesman for ExportNZ, a nonprofit association run by exporters for exporters, said that one of the issues China is expected to raise during the talks is its application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The CPTPP is a free trade agreement involving 11 countries — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam — which took effect in December 2018.

China joining the pact would result in a tripling of the consumer base and a 1.5-fold expansion of the combined GDP of the partnership.

After their meeting in late March, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang and New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta issued a joint statement that said, "China is ready to work with New Zealand to continue the sound momentum of high-level exchanges and increase political mutual trust."

Efforts should be made to implement the upgraded free trade agreement between China and New Zealand and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, unleash policy dividends and tap into the potential for cooperation, the statement added.

Mahuta said the New Zealand-China comprehensive strategic partnership goes beyond the scope of economy and trade, and delivers tangible benefits to both sides. New Zealand is firmly committed to the one-China policy and expects to strengthen high-level interactions and people-to-people exchanges, she added.

The two countries have been on good terms since the establishment of diplomatic relations in December 1972.

Qin said the two sides "should earnestly follow through on the common understandings and strive for greater development of the China-New Zealand comprehensive strategic partnership in the new era".

David Wu, a Chinese businessman in New Zealand involved in sectors such as healthcare and real estate, said the Chinese community in New Zealand believes that Hipkins' visit can bring tangible benefits to both sides. "The better the relationship between the two countries, the easier it will be for us to conduct business," he said.

China's strength lies in infrastructure building, while New Zealand has good dairy products, agricultural produce, seafood and wine, Wu said. "It will be great if Chinese construction companies can help with transportation projects in New Zealand, and if more Kiwi products can enter the Chinese market."

China is going to be a really, really fundamental trading partner for New Zealand in the foreseeable future, Pete Chrisp, chief executive of government-funded international business development agency New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, was recently quoted by Reuters as saying.


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