New Zealand Prime Minister says that even as China becomes more assertive, there are still common interests

By Lucy Kramer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that even as “China becomes more assertive in pursuing its interests” there are still common interests on which the two countries can cooperate.

New Zealand has recently toughened its tone on both security and Beijing’s growing presence in the South Pacific, due in part to the signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands earlier this year. But at the same time New Zealand remains dependent on trade with China.

While there are areas of great interest to New Zealand and where the country’s view differs from that of China, New Zealand is ready to participate, Ardern said in a speech at the China Business Summit in Auckland.

“We will also advocate for approaches and outcomes that reflect New Zealand’s interests and values, and speak openly about issues that do not,” she said.

“Our differences should not define us. But we cannot ignore them,” she said.

New Zealand has consistently expressed concerns about economic coercion, human rights abuse, particularly the treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, democracy advocates in Hong Kong, and most recently about the potential militarization of the Pacific. On a number of occasions, New Zealand has been part of joint statements on these concerns.

Ardern added that managing differences in the relationship between the two countries will not always be easy and “there are no guarantees”.

She added that she is looking forward to personal ministerial visits and plans to lead a trade delegation there when COVID measures allow and that there is potential for foreign minister visits between the two countries as well.

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(Reporting by Lucy Kramer; Editing by Sandra Mahler)

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