6 Jul 2012

New lobby group to foster NZ-China relations

7:28 am on 6 July 2012

A member of a new lobby group that will foster relations between New Zealand and China says part of its role will be navigating Chinese politics and industry.

The creation of the New Zealand China Council builds on the Government's strategy of boosting investment between the two countries.

The council will be chaired by Sir Don McKinnon, and includes former Prime Minister, Dame Jenny Shipley, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman and ANZCO Foods chairman Sir Graeme Harrison.

Sir Graeme says the proliferation of titles on the board will be important.

He says status matters in China and opens doors, and when it comes to the business sector it's not possible to hire a consultant or hire a distinguished legal firm in China the way a business might elsewhere.

Sir Graeme says the board will play a different role to some of the industry groups that liaise with China.

He says the New Zealand China Trade Association is aimed at specific issues, but this group is broader than that and is trying to work at the highest level in China.

He says Chinese regulations can be opaque and can change, so it's necessary to build relationships.

"So this is very much about a public private partnership, which sometimes trade associations aren't about, they're very specific to business".

The formation of the group comes in the wake of controversy over the proposed sale of the Crafar farms to Shanghai Pengxin.

Sir Graeme says foreign investment is a reality of the modern world and where trade access improves, so does investment.

He says he is not sure whether the council will lobby against the tariffs China still imposes on some products entering its borders.

Sir Graeme says most of those tariffs are going to be phased out and 2016 is the key date.