New Zealand’s New Leader to Visit China

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said Monday he would lead a delegation to China, the first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The two countries have an established trading relationship; the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement came into force in October 2008.

New Zealand’s exports to China are worth more than $12.8 billion, or a quarter of the country’s total export earnings, according to government data.

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said the bilateral relationship with China was one of his country’s “most significant, wide-ranging and complex”

Hipkins will travel to three Chinese cities on an official visit later this month.

He told reporters in Wellington on Monday that it would be a significant visit.

“Today I can announce that I will be leading a major trade delegation to China at the end of this month with stops in Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai,” he said. “It will be the first prime ministerial level visit to China since the COVID-19 global pandemic began and New Zealand’s first prime minister-led trade delegation there since 2016.”

Hipkins said the trade delegation also would include representatives from the education and tourism industries.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, China was New Zealand’s second-largest source of visitors behind Australia. In January 2023, it ranked seventh, according to official statistics. But a recovery in the sector is expected now that New Zealand’s borders have re-opened.

Hipkins also said he was keen for New Zealand to diversify its trade with China.

“The export of traditional goods like dairy, meat and wood to China are incredibly important but it is also very critical that we throw our support behind emerging sectors like gaming and health and wellness.”

Hipkins did not confirm if he would be meet Chinese President Xi Jinping. But he did stress that he would raise human rights concerns with Chinese officials when appropriate. He also urged Beijing to help bring Russia’s “illegal and unjust war” in Ukraine to an end.

The New Zealand prime minister, who leads a left-leaning government in Wellington, said he would also attend the NATO meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.

(Source: Voa News)