'There can be no guarantees' in New Zealand's relationship with China - Ardern

There can be "no guarantees" when it comes to New Zealand's relationship with China, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

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‘We need to ask ourselves the question, does this confront our values as a nation?” Ardern said at the China Business Summit. Source: 1 NEWS

The Prime Minister was asked during this morning's China Business Summit if New Zealand would risk trade punishment with China, as did Australia, to uphold values.

"It would be a concern to anyone in New Zealand if the consideration was, do we speak on this or are we too worried of economic impacts?" Ardern said. 

"When we’re coming to make a decision around whether we speak on an issue of concern to us, that needs to be thought through on its merits, on its own.

"We need to ask ourselves the question, does this confront our values as a nation and what is the best way for us to convey those concerns and that needs to be the consideration," Ardern said. 

"That’s how we consider our decisions around those issues and that’s how it should be."

Parliament tomorrow is set to mull over whether it debates a motion put forward by ACT on declaring the situation in Xinjiang as genocide. The motion can be thrown out if just one person objects. 

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But Ardern says the differences between the China and New Zealand are becoming harder to reconcile. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern said during her speech to the summit that managing the relationship with China "is not always going to be easy and there can be no guarantees".

"New Zealand and China are going to take different perspectives on some important issues. We will continue to work through these in a consistent manner, as we have always done.

"But as Minister Mahuta said last month, we need to acknowledge that there are some things on which China and New Zealand do not, cannot, and will not agree.

"This need not derail our relationship, it is simply a reality," Ardern said. 

It comes after a comment from Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta about New Zealand being "uncomfortable" expanding the Five Eyes remit on messaging. 

The fallout saw international news outlets covering the comments, with the UK Telegraph accusing New Zealand of pushing aside Five Eyes "to pursue closer ties with China".

Ardern reiterated wanting to use a broader platform than just that of the Five Eyes members to speak out on issues.  

In November, China issued a warning to "beware of their eyes being poked and blinded" after New Zealand, along with its Five Eyes partners Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, issued a statement reiterating "serious concern regarding China’s imposition of new rules to disqualify elected legislators in Hong Kong". 

According to Stats NZ, New Zealand's exports to China in the year to December 2020 were $18.6 billion (of the overall global exports of $78.2 billion), and imports from China were worth $12.9 billion. Of New Zealand's exports to China, $5.6 billion was dairy.