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'I said exactly what I meant' - Foreign Minister defends contentious China comments

Earlier this week, Nanaia Mahuta’s remarks that she was “uncomfortable” with broadening the Five Eyes intelligence relationship to include foreign policy statements, and that she wanted New Zealand to pursue a more autonomous stance, provoked criticism from some commentators.

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The Foreign Minister told Q+A she stands by her comments about the relationship with New Zealand's biggest trading partner and she wouldn’t change a word. Source: Q+A

But, the Foreign Minister told Q+A’s Jessica Mutch McKay, the context was clear she was signalling New Zealand’s position of wanting to raise issues directly with China - or alongside other allies where appropriate.

“I didn’t think that on every issue, all the time, you needed to invoke the Five Eyes framework which is primarily a security and intelligence partnership."

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Nanaia Mahuta wants to move away from using the Five Eyes security alliance as NZ’s “first point” of messaging. Source: 1 NEWS

When asked if she could have framed it differently, she told the programme: “No, I said exactly what I meant in terms of the Five Eyes alliance being a security and intelligence framework and that it’s really important that if we are going to stand up for universal human rights within our region, we look to build a broader consensus of support.”  

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Mahuta's Five Eyes comment about China unnecessarily created 'drama' - Foreign policy expert

Mahuta also had a warning for exporters about the need to diversify when it comes to China, saying they just need to look across the Tasman.

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Victoria University’s Robert Ayson says the Foreign Minister shouldn’t have drawn attention to NZ’s reluctance to use the intelligence network to antagonise Beijing. Source: Breakfast

“We must look across the Tasman and see what has been happening to them and prepare ourselves in the event that with the challenges of the growing assertiveness of China, potentially the same things happening here to send a signal to exporters that they need to build resilience into the markets that they export to but also into their business model.”   

Watch today's full episode of Q+A on TVNZ OnDemand