WELLINGTON, March 27 Chinese Premier Li Keqiang
pressed for deeper trade ties with New Zealand and warned
against global protectionism in a newspaper opinion piece
published on Monday before meetings with Prime Minister Bill
English and business leaders in Wellington.
In the New Zealand Herald column, titled "To New Zealand,
with love", Li said "rising instability and uncertainty in the
international landscape have made it all the more important for
China and New Zealand to work together to turn challenges into
China is the No. 1 trading partner to both Australia and New
Zealand and trade was also a major focus of Li's visit to
Australia last week, the first by a sitting Chinese premier in
Li, on his first trip to New Zealand since he took office in
2013, was welcomed to Government House in Wellington by a Maori
haka, a traditional dance and a cannon salute.
"Now that we have a fairly stable trade relationship on farm
products, we need to move beyond import and export and promote
high-tech-driven, high-value-added, whole-industrial-chain
co-operation," Li wrote in the column.
New Zealand has long been more supportive of China's global
ambitions than some of its other Western allies. It was the
first Western country to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with
China, in 2008 and the first to join the China-initiated Asian
Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
The pair are now working on upgrading the FTA, which Li said
was essential in a climate of rising protectionism.
"We have every reason to believe that globalisation will
continue to move forward despite its setbacks, just as one
should not stop eating for fear of getting choked," Li said.
New Zealand's $180 billion economy depends heavily on
exports, and Li's remarks echoed those made by both English and
New Zealand's Reserve Bank governor, Graeme Wheeler, who have
warned that the tightening of global trade is the biggest threat
to their country's prosperity.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Writing by Tom Westbrook;
Editing by Jane Wardell and Peter Cooney)