Li visit stirs trade hopes

Seeing how they do it: Li (right) visiting the Plant and Food Research facility in Auckland, New Zealand. — AP

PREMIER Li Qiang arrived in New Zealand’s northern hub of Auckland, stirring up hope of new trade avenues among the country’s business leaders.

Li is on a six-day tour of New Zealand and Australia which began yesterday, the highest- ranking official to visit either nation since his predecessor in 2017.

China accounts for 30% of New Zealand’s export earnings, according to World Bank data, but there are fears this could evaporate if the world’s second-largest economy continues to slow.

The New Zealand China Council – which represents some of the country’s biggest exporters and most influential companies – was slated to meet with Li yesterday evening.

A council spokesperson said they were enthusiastic about “hearing the premier’s views on potential new areas of growth for the bilateral relationship”.

Mark Piper, the chief executive of a top New Zealand government science institute, met Li earlier during a tour of an Auckland research facility.

“He was talking about more research collaborations and more people exchanges, which is what we’re really interested in,” Piper said, speaking of Li.

“He was really big on collaboration, the value that New Zealand can bring to China and that China can bring to New Zealand.”

New Zealand was one of the first developed nations to ink a comprehensive free trade deal with Beijing.

Chinese consumers have a voracious appetite, in particular, for New Zealand’s premium meat, dairy and wine.

Li touted opportunities for trade, tourism and investment as he started his tour in New Zealand’s capital Wellington on Thursday.

But he warned that emerging differences between the two nations “should not become a chasm that blocks exchanges and cooperation between us”.

New Zealand, long seen as one of China’s closest partners in the region, has become increasingly bold in its criticism of Beijing’s role in the South Pacific. — AFP

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