Chinese PM Stirs European Anxiety During Visit to New Zealand


Two days after the European Commission said it will raise tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, the country’s premier just happens to be touring a small Pacific nation famous for its dairy and beef.

And while farmers in Europe worry about the prospect of a fully-fledged trade war with Beijing, because of the EC’s bold but unsurprising trade decision, Premier Li Qiang, on the second day of an official visit, remarked that there is a growing demand in China for high-quality dairy, beef and lamb products from New Zealand.

The Chinese PM is waving carrots and sticks – seeking to revive ties with two increasingly wary neighbours in the South Pacific, who are members of a burgeoning regional military alliance, while also signaling to Europe that “we have alternatives to your food and wine exports.”


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Li’s trip Down Under, which includes a four-day stopover in Australia starting on Saturday, is aimed at strengthening trade and diplomatic ties with the two Pacific nations. China is the biggest trading partner of both nations.

On Friday Li visited the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research in Auckland, a government agency tasked with promoting the farming, food and beverage industries, before meetings and a dinner with business people, academics and diplomats.

Li said more bilateral business opportunities would emerge in the areas of energy, information technology, biomedicine and other emerging industries, Chinese state media reported.

He reiterated that China would work with New Zealand to upgrade their comprehensive strategic partnership, and stressed the need for increased cooperation in services trade and cross-border e-commerce.

His comments came as Chinese firms formally applied for an anti-dumping probe into pork imports from the European Union, escalating tensions after the bloc imposed anti-subsidy duties on Chinese-made EVs.

Global food companies from dairy producers to pork exporters are on high alert for potential retaliatory tariffs from China.

New Zealand and China on Thursday signed bilateral agreements on trade and climate during Li’s trip, the highest level Chinese visit to New Zealand in seven years.


Vow to expand market access

Li Qiang is a gentler face of the Chinese regime (Reuters).

Li has promised that Beijing will further expand market access, create a market-oriented and internationalised business environment, and he encouraged entrepreneurs to seize opportunities, Chinese state media said.

Beijing sees itself as a key part of New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon’s plan to double exports over the next 10 years.

China is already New Zealand’s largest trading partner with bilateral trade totalling nearly NZ$38 billion ($23.27 billion).

New Zealand remains keen to further boost trade ties with China but has also toughened its stance over the last year, accusing Beijing of hacking its parliament and noting what it characterises as a growing Chinese threat to Pacific security.

After his meeting with Li on Thursday Luxon said that as well as discussing trade, he had also raised concerns about issues such as Chinese interference. Li’s meeting with New Zealand opposition leader Chris Hipkins was cancelled on Friday, due to Hipkins facing travel issues.




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Jim Pollard

Jim Pollard is an Australian journalist based in Thailand since 1999. He worked for News Ltd papers in Sydney, Perth, London and Melbourne before travelling through SE Asia in the late 90s. He was a senior editor at The Nation for 17+ years.


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