Berliner Tageblatt - China Premier Li backs 'dialogue, not confrontation' in New Zealand

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China Premier Li backs 'dialogue, not confrontation' in New Zealand
China Premier Li backs 'dialogue, not confrontation' in New Zealand / Photo: © AFP

China Premier Li backs 'dialogue, not confrontation' in New Zealand

Chinese Premier Li Qiang said Friday he supported "dialogue, not confrontation" during a visit to New Zealand where he stirred up hope of new trade avenues.

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Li is on a six-day tour of New Zealand and Australia, the highest-ranking official to visit either nation since his predecessor in 2017.

China accounts for 30 percent of New Zealand's export earnings, according to World Bank data, but there are fears this could evaporate if the world's second-largest economy continues to slow.

The Chinese premier praised "historic" developments in relations between the two countries over the past decade during a speech before a gala dinner in Auckland hosted by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon.

"We both emphasised that countries should live in harmony, engage in dialogue, not confrontation, and have cooperation, not conflict," Li said.

Luxon, who has raised sensitive issues such as foreign interference and recent escalations in the South China Sea with Li, said the pair had reached a better understanding of their "respective priorities".

New Zealand, long seen as one of China's closest partners in the region, has become increasingly bold in its criticism of Beijing's expanding influence in the South Pacific.

Business remains a priority, however.

Li met some of New Zealand's biggest exporters and most influential companies during the visit, which wraps up Saturday when he flies to the South Australian capital Adelaide.

- 'Big on collaboration' -

Mark Piper, chief executive of a top New Zealand government science institute, met the Chinese premier during a tour of an Auckland research facility earlier in the day.

"He was talking about more research collaborations and more people exchanges, which is what we're really interested in," Piper told AFP.

"He was really big on collaboration, the value that New Zealand can bring to China and that China can bring to New Zealand."

New Zealand was one of the first developed nations to sign a comprehensive free trade deal with Beijing.

Chinese consumers have a voracious appetite for New Zealand's premium meat, dairy and wine.

Li touted opportunities for trade, tourism and investment when he started his tour in New Zealand's capital Wellington on Thursday.

But he warned that emerging differences between the two nations "should not become a chasm that blocks exchanges and cooperation between us".