PM announces new NZ embassy 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.
Prime Minister John Key and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed in the Great Hall of the People last night 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.
Key has previously said that instructions from Beijing tend to be fulfilled.
Key in 2010 reached an agreement with then Chinese premier, Wen Jiabao, to double trade levels of the time to $20b by 2015.
Last year two-way trade with China reached $18.2b, growing by a quarter over 2012, leading Wang Lutong, China's new ambassador in Wellington, to predict this month that the existing target would probably be reached a year ahead of target.
Key has been stressing on the trip that although by virtually all metrics 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 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.
He spent several hours yesterday giving interviews to Chinese media in an attempt to get the message out to consumers that New Zealand food was safe.
He has told New Zealand media that China was taking food safety more seriously than virtually any other trading partner.
Key said last night that there would be a boost of at least 16 new staff based in China's capital, split between staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry for Primary Industries.
Other government departments might 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 $40 million.
"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."