China / Politics

Xi: New Zealand ties 'exemplary'

By WANG ZHUOQIONG and ZHAO SHENGNAN (China Daily) Updated: 2014-03-20 02:54

Visiting PM assures Beijing of diary product safety, calls for more trade

President Xi Jinping called for closer cooperation between China and New Zealand in the agricultural and animal husbandry sectors on Wednesday after Wellington gave repeated assurances that its food is safe following last year's botulism scare.

Because of the special advantages in New Zealand's economy and China's vast market, the two countries enjoy huge space for cooperation, Xi said at a meeting with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key.

Calling the ties "pioneering" and "exemplary", Xi said both sides should expand cooperation in such fields as the green economy, energy conservation, reduction of emissions and high technology.

Exchanges in culture, education and tourism should be promoted, too, Xi said.

Key said New Zealand respects China's core interests and supports China as host of the APEC meeting of economic leaders later this year.

He said New Zealand's willingness to deepen cooperation with China is strong, and he is confident that bilateral trade could reach 30 billion New Zealand dollars ($26 billion) by 2020.

Bilateral trade between the two countries last year was worth more than 18 billion New Zealand dollars.

"Our aim is to increase bilateral trade to 20 billion New Zealand dollars by 2015, and we are on track to achieve that goal," Key said.

According to Key, China is New Zealand's largest trading partner, the largest source of international students and the second-largest source of tourists.

Boosted by the rapid urbanization and a rising middle class in China, Key expressed confidence that trade on both sides can continue to grow rapidly.

"The reason that is achievable is that New Zealand's services and goods appeal to the wealthy middle class in China," Key said. "I don't think the new goal is based on hope, but on quite conservative modeling of what we see is possible."

The visiting prime minister reiterated his hope of restoring the confidence of Chinese consumers of infant formula products. He said New Zealand would guarantee the safety of food exported to China, under the strictest standards and with a responsible attitude.

"I hope that the fact I am sitting here demonstrates that as a country we take these issues very seriously," Key said. "We know that the care and the good health of your children and citizens is paramount. We take that responsibility very much to heart."

Fonterra, New Zealand's largest exporter of dairy products, admitted last week to four charges that it failed to meet standards and to notify officials soon enough after they discovered a problem in production.

Key said the purpose of his trip to China is to provide an update and to reflect on the food scare last year involving New Zealand's baby formula.

He said it was actually a false alarm after statistics showed that early information was incorrect, though it led to a number of investigations.

The prime minister said investigative findings showed that the country's food safety system and testing regime was "world class" and they have strong belief in the integrity of the system.

Fonterra launched the China-New Zealand Dairy Exchange Centre in Beijing this week to support the sustainable development of the dairy industry in China.

Key said the "warm" relationship with China goes beyond exports of dairy and lamb. It goes to aviation, films and IT services.

The two countries announced a landmark deal on Tuesday that allows the direct trading of currencies, ending the need for companies and currency traders to convert Chinese yuan or New Zealand dollars into a third currency when making or receiving payments.

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