NZ to build greater presence in China
New Zealand is to build a new embassy and beef up staff numbers in Beijing, to support an ambitious plan to increase trade with China by two thirds in the next seven years.
A meeting between Prime Minister John Key and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People last night saw the leaders sign off an agreement aiming to increase trade to $30 billion by 2020.
While the agreement is by its nature simply an aspiration, China's government plays an active role in the economy and Key has said that instructions from Beijing tend to be fulfilled.
Key has been stressing on the trip that although China is now New Zealand's largest trading partner, that the growth had a long way to go.
"We have great confidence that the coming years will see trade between us increase at a very fast pace."
The relationship has not been without its incidents, most notably the botulism scare created by contaminated products produced at a Fonterra plant in Waikato last year.
Although it turned out to be a massive false alarm, it ultimately prompted Key's visit to China this week to give assurances that New Zealand's food safety standards are up to scratch.
Key said last night that there would be a boost of at least 16 new staff based in China's capital, split between Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Primary Industries. Other government departments may also receive a boost although this was subject to the Budget process. Key announced last night plans for a new chancery, the main diplomatic building in Beijing, costing "in excess" of $40m.
"The current Chancery has served us well since 1973, but it is now time for it to reflect the status and importance of New Zealand's relationship with China."