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New Zealand PM Hipkins to visit China at end of June


By Lucy Craymer and Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) -New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said on Monday he will visit China at the end of this month at the head of a trade delegation.

China is New Zealand largest trading partner with New Zealand’s exports there worth more than NZ$20 billion a year. Unlike Australia, New Zealand has not faced Chinese trade barriers in connection with various disputes in recent years.

The New Zealand delegation would include representatives of a wide range of sectors including dairy, tourism, education and gaming, Hipkins told a weekly media conference.

“The relationship with China is one of New Zealand’s most significant, wide-ranging and complex,” Hipkins said.

New Zealand, part of the Five Eyes intelligence and security alliance that includes Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, has historically taken a more conciliatory approach towards China than its allies.

However, New Zealand has increasingly raised concerns about China, in part over the possible militarization in the Pacific, where China has been extending its influence.

When New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta visited China in March she raised concerns about the South China Sea, tension in the Taiwan Strait as well as the human rights situation in the west Chinese region of Xinjiang, and the erosion of rights and freedoms in Hong Kong.

Hipkins said New Zealand prided itself on its relationship with China being stable and consistent.

“That means where we have human rights concerns around trade or any other foreign policy issue,” he said.

This will be Hipkins first visit to China since he became leader in January when former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern stood down. He travelled to Papua New Guinea this year for a U.S.-Pacific Summit.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Kim Coghill, Robert Birsel)

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