Chinese firm tipped as broadband partner

Prime Minister John Key yesterday tipped Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei as a potential partner in the Government's $1.5 billion ultra-fast broadband project as he pointed to joint ventures as the way forward for Chinese investment in this country.

Speaking on TVNZ's Q+A yesterday, Mr Key restated his view large-scale direct investment in New Zealand farmland by Chinese or other foreign buyers was not in New Zealand's interests.

"My general view is if we sell farms offshore in large numbers, that's not a good thing for New Zealand, simply because I don't think it adds a lot of value.

But he saw value in joint ventures between Chinese and New Zealand businesses.

Those partnerships could include new agriculture or wood-processing facilities in New Zealand or overseas farming ventures in Latin America, for example.

During his stay in Shanghai in recent days, Mr Key said discussions had been held between "heavy hitters" from both New Zealand and China about joint ventures, including New Zealand infrastructure projects, an area where the Government was looking for "value for money".

"Let's take ultra-fast broadband. They've got a lot of expertise in that area.Huawei is a big player. They're bigger round the world.

"No-one's saying they would be the final selected partner in New Zealand, but they've certainly got the capacity, if they wanted to, to come in and look at doing something like that."

IDC Telecommunications analyst Rosalie Nelson said the suggestion of Huawei, which is a telecommunications technology provider rather than a builder or operator of networks, was somewhat out of "left field".

"It's not a fibre deployer unless it was intending to partner with one of the bidders."

Huawei is the supplier of mobile phone company 2degrees' network equipment.

Government-owned Crown Fibre Holdings is understood to have had about 32 bids for the ultra-fast broadband project, which aims to provide high- speed internet services to 75% of New Zealand homes.

Meanwhile, Mr Key said China was expected to overtake Australia as New Zealand's biggest trading partner within "the medium term".

The two countries had agreed on a target of doubling their annual trade to $20 billion a year within five years.

Mr Key hoped New Zealand's exports to China would treble to $12 billion in that time.

Human rights issues are a serious concern in Vietnam, but Mr Key said improving New Zealand's relationship with the country could help.

Mr Key, who arrived in Vietnam from China on Saturday, said the Government was aware of human rights issues in Vietnam and discussed them with the Vietnamese.

"I don't think we're going to make progress lecturing people, but we can certainly make progress having a discussion and dialogue with them, pointing out the expectations of the developed world when it comes to human rights.

"We try our best to use our economic relationship and the growing strength of the relationship to improve human rights," Mr Key said.

- Additional reporting by NZPA

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