Prime Minister's speeches in China

Prime Minister John Key's visit to China has been somewhat overshadowed by an international focus on relations between North Korea and the rest of the world.  However, the Prime Minister's visit also celebrates and indicates the intentions for the relationship between New Zealand and China.  Key's speech to Peking University on 11 April highlights the Government's aspirations and hesitations regarding New Zealand's growing relationship with China.  Key highlighted:

  • The education relationship, stating that China is New Zealand's largest source of international students and that New Zealand schools are high quality, cost competitive institutions in an English language environment. 
  • The trade relationship and the free trade agreement between New Zealand and China which has been in place for five years.  Key noted that China is New Zealand's second-largest export market and biggest source of imports.  Key reconfirmed the goal of doubling two-way trade by 2015. 
  • The investment relationship, seeking to welcome Chinese investment in New Zealand.  However, the topical issue of Chinese investment in sensitive land was raised with clear Government support for continuing existing rules (under the Overseas Investment Act).
  • The potential food partnership between New Zealand and China, as Key advertised New Zealand's food safety standards, technology and experience in agriculture and horticulture.

Key's speech had a flavour of promoting New Zealand as a business, technological, and even disaster relief partner to China.  It also promoted New Zealand in its bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council and Tim Groser's application for appointment to the WTO.  However, there was recognition of differing cultures, histories and political traditions.  Key raised that to express views with openness, honesty and respect will allow countries with difference perspectives to work together.

On the theme of working together, Key spoke on the China Strategy which seeks greater coordination and effectiveness across government agencies that work with China.  It has led to the establishment of the New Zealand China Council, partnered with the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, and increased diplomatic of New Zealand presence in China.

The following day (12 April), Key spoke to the New Zealand China Partnership Forum.  In this, somewhat similar speech, he focussed heavily on the economic relationship between New Zealand and China.  He reiterated New Zealand's growing trade relationship with China and the need for overseas investment to encourage growth and prosperity.  Key restated his support for Overseas Investment Act rules, being applied fairly, consistently, and transparently, to all overseas investors in sensitive land.

Overall, the speeches indicate the current Government's strong desire to increase relations with China and the wider Asia region.  Key advertised New Zealand as a trading, education, and investment partner for China.