Support for free trade gives NZ confidence
2017-10-16, HU YONGQI

New Zealand expects to see China’s continuous commitment to free trade and multilateralism at the 19th Communist Party of China (CPC) National Congress this month, said John McKinnon, the country’s ambassador to China.

Given China’s position in the global economy, the signals sent by the congress for the nation’s approach to its own economic situation as well as globally will be of considerable interest, McKinnon said.

“The congress provides a strong sense of direction to where it’s going,” he added.

President Xi Jinping’s speech in January at Davos in Switzerland advocated China’s commitment to multilateralism and the importance of globalized trade, McKinnon said.

“That’s really important for New Zealand,” he said. “We are an open economy. We rely on the trading system to be fair and equitable in terms of how to deal with different countries and different markets.”

China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner for goods. The countries signed a free trade agreement in 2008, and negotiations on upgrading the document started in April.

“Now, both China and New Zealand have engaged in the negotiations. We want to make sure the agreement is fit for 2017 and 2018 as well,” McKinnon said.

“The words China has been saying and the president has been saying are an important context that gives us confidence.”

The ambassador noted United States President Donald Trump will visit China shortly after the congress, in November, and then meetings such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum will be held in the region.

“These will be occasions shortly after the congress when what has been discussed and concluded at the Party congress will be addressed internationally,” he said.

Meanwhile, McKinnon keeps a close eye on how China’s legal system works. In light of the major anti-corruption campaign of the past few years, New Zealand is interested in how China is governing itself, he said.

“It’s interesting to see how the Party congress sums it up and what it might want to do in terms of taking the work forward.”

The ambassador said he will also be interested to see how the congress addresses the issue of environmental protection. China has changed its attitude and policies and is focused on improving the quality of air, water and soil.

In December, New Zealand will host the second New Zealand-China Mayoral Forum, the theme of which is how to balance economic development and protection of the environment.

“This is an area that we think about a lot in New Zealand, and we see China thinks about too,” McKinnon added.

“That’s a basis for some interesting exchanges on how you deal with the fact that you want to grow the economy and protect the environment.”

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