Mahuta lauds ‘important’ China relations

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta speaks to the 2023 University of Otago Foreign Policy...
Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta speaks to the 2023 University of Otago Foreign Policy School on Friday night. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Chris Hipkins’ visit to China last week was a continuation of New Zealand’s positive engagement with our largest trade partner, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta says.

Ms Mahuta did not accompany the Prime Minister to China, having travelled to the People’s Republic in March to help set Mr Hipkins’ visit up.

She said the Prime Minister being in China for a week and the high-level reception he received — which included a meeting with President Xi Jinping — demonstrated how significant the relationship between the two countries was.

"It also reinforces the message that we have sent to our own community, which is that China is an important relationship and that our interests extend beyond trade and economics but to people-to-people and cultural connections, and that we will continue to find areas in which we can continue to work together, but also to express our concerns when we do not agree on critical things.

"I also expect that we will see positive results from such a large trade delegation having been sent over there."

Ms Mahuta, who was in Dunedin on Friday to give the keynote speech at the annual University of Otago Foreign Policy School, told the Otago Daily Times Mr Hipkins’ visit had been significant and would likely have been received positively by China.

"We manage it [New Zealand’s relationship with China] very carefully, we do that by taking a consistent, predictable and respectful stance when identifying the issues that are important to us that we can agree on with China and those which differentiate us from the People’s Republic of China.

"We have been able to mature our relationship, have robust conversations and continue to identify areas of opportunity but also areas of challenge."

Ms Mahuta, foreign minister for the past 2½ years, added disarmament to her suite of portfolios in February this year.

Her speech to the Foreign Policy School was a robust argument against the proliferation of nuclear weapons and a call for other nations to follow the example of the south Pacific and ban them.

Although there are several nations bordering the Pacific which either have or claim to have nuclear weapons, the only nation Ms Mahuta cited specifically was Russia, which has also recently threatened to use them in its ongoing conflict with Ukraine.

She told the ODT her choice of topic and calling out of Russia was quite deliberate.

"I felt that the pillars of our independent foreign policy needed to be clearly articulated and established ... and in questions from the room I responded to the challenge that North Korea presents in our region as well.

"Where we can use our diplomatic dialogue to be able to press upon for example the People’s Republic of China to use its influence in the case of Russia and its actions but also the actions of other states whose actions challenge the international rules-based norms and international system, we will do so." , Political editor