Business / Economy

China sheltered New Zealand from worst of financial crisis

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-11-10 09:28

AUCKLAND -- New Zealand's economic growth rests on trade with China, which helped the country escape the worst effects of the Global Financial Crisis, former New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff said on Sunday.

Goff, who signed the free trade agreement with China in 2008, said ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to New Zealand later this month that Xi had been a good friend to New Zealand.

"I've met Xi Jinping both in Beijing and on his last visit to New Zealand when he was Vice President so he knows New Zealand. He 's been a good friend to New Zealand and I think the relationship between New Zealand and China is in a very, very good state," Goff said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

"We will welcome him back to New Zealand. It's always impressive to have the president of the world's biggest country in New Zealand and we appreciate the time that he's taken from a schedule that is unbelievably busy to come to New Zealand."

The free trade agreement had opened up possibilities for the enormous growth in the bilateral economic relationship with exports to China rising four or five-fold since April 2008, Goff said.

"Our two-way trade is now over NZ$20 billion ($15.49 billion) and it's still increasing. And yet, I don't think we have realized the full potential of that relationship," said Goff.

"China is now our biggest trading partner. It's our biggest source of international students. It's our second biggest source of tourists and of course we have a rich migrant population that has come from China that is working hard and contributing well to New Zealand," he said.

"So on all of those fronts, the relationship between the two countries has grown and grown and I credit China with helping New Zealand to escape the worst effects of the global Financial Crisis.

"Europe and the United States were in economic trouble. China was growing and our trade with China was growing and it was maintaining the national income of New Zealand and the jobs and growth of New Zealand," he said.

However, Goff said there was still huge scope for developing people-to-people relationships between the two countries.

"I'd like to see more New Zealand students learning Mandarin. I'd like to see more New Zealand students studying in China. I'd like wherever possible to grow that people-to-people relationship, " said Goff.

"We've got more New Zealanders going to China as tourists, but it would be really good to improve the understanding of China by New Zealanders and that means if we improve our Mandarin-speaking skills, if we take advantage of the Chinese migrant population in New Zealand, that can open up new opportunities for business and commerce, but also for the broader relationships that tie countries together."

Goff was speaking to Xinhua in Auckland at the launch of the " Experience China in New Zealand" cultural program, organized by the State Council Information Office ahead of Xi's visit.

Xi will make a state visit to New Zealand later this month.

China sheltered New Zealand from worst of financial crisis

China sheltered New Zealand from worst of financial crisis

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