21 Nov 2014

Demand "insatiable" - President Xi

12:31 pm on 21 November 2014

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said his country has an insatiable appetite for New Zealand products and a new trade deal with Australia does not threaten that.

State welcome for Chinese President Xi Jinping at Government House Wellington.

State welcome for Chinese President Xi Jinping at Government House Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski / Pool

New Zealand signed a free trade deal with China in 2008 and this week Australia followed suit signing a deal that eliminates or phases out tariffs on goods such as milk and services including education and banking.

President Xi met with the Prime Minister John Key in Wellington yesterday where he said the trading relationship between New Zealand and China still has enormous room to grow.

He said the two countries are looking to hit $30 billion in two-way trade by 2020.

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"We agree to further consolidate and expand our cooperation in the traditional areas such as agriculture and animal husbandry.

"At the same time we will work in new growth areas, for example, financial services, IT, energy conservation and environmental protection and bio-medicine," President Xi said.

President Xi said people here in New Zealand should not be worried by the free trade deal between China and Australia.

"On the contrary, possibly, New Zealand will have to worry about the fact that there is more Chinese demand than you can possibly supply. We have a very stable market there and the market will continue to expand in the future."

But it is concerns about Chinese foreign direct investment in New Zealand that Labour Party leader Andrew Little will be raising with President Xi this morning.

Mr Little said he wanted to get a handle on China's intentions in the region.

"Obviously we've been discussing a lot about what happens when they (Chinese) purchase land.

"I'd like to get a bit of a steer on the Chinese government's view and expectations about ongoing Chinese foreign direct investment into New Zealand and indeed around the Pacific."

Mr Little said he would also be discussing human rights with President Xi.

"There's still ongoing human rights records, particularly the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of information, that's still an ongoing issue, even in this day of the internet. So, I'm just keen to gauge what steps, if any, are being taken to relax the restrictions that still appear to be in place."

At Parliament House in Wellington yesterday, President Xi said China was making progress on human rights.

"Over the past three decades and more since we launched reform and opened up in China...China's human rights development has registered progress and the progress is there for everyone to see."

Green Party MP Gareth Hughes was waving a Tibetan flag yesterday in Wellington protesting against China's record on human rights.

He said China needed to embrace human rights as it develops.

"We've seen Nobel Prize winners jailed, we've seen the recent protests in Hong Kong and we see the ongoing trouble in Tibet, I'd like to see if front and centre of the Chinese political agenda.

"And New Zealand has an important role to play as a friend to China, with a strong robust relationship, to be able to raise these issues."

Chinese market 'complex' says business group

Executive director of the New Zealand International Business Forum, Stephen Jacobi, recently travelled to China and said although the market is challenging, there is still a lot of opportunity.

He said the visit by the Chinese president - and the deals signed while here - are very important to that.

Mr Jacobi told Morning Report that taking advantage of opportunities in a market as big and complex as China will not be easy.

"I've been in China in the past three weeks travelling through some of the regional areas, I can see obvious areas of growth for us across a range of different products, so we've got a lot of work to do but a lot of opportunities to take advantage of," he said.

Mr Jacobi said the visit by President Xi is symbolic.

"The welcome, the handshake, the honorary degree, these symbols are still very important in international relations - but there are transactional benefits - there's the co-production agreement, there's the movement of students, there's a whole lot of things that have been signed that are going to deliver value to the Chinese and to New Zealanders."

Regarding Australia's trade deal with China he said the six years of trading with China is a good head start for New Zealand.

"I don't think you'll find any Australian business people who would agree they should have traded away 6 years waiting for the deal that they've got now, in that time NZ's had a wonderful opportunity to build up market credibility in China."

President Xi leaves New Zealand for Fiji today.

Tourism industry welcomes visa change

Meanwhile the Tourism Industry Association has said that extending the working holiday visa programme and streamlining immigration processes for rich Chinese will be a boon for the sector.

Under changes announced by Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key, Chinese holiday makers will now be able to work with the same employer for up to six months instead of three months.

The association's chief executive, Chris Roberts, said the longer stint means employers will get more benefit from training workers and also give Chinese visitors a better experience.

He said easing immigration procedures for holders of Platinum and Diamond UnionPay will attract more Chinese tourists, whose spending is already forecast to more than double to $1.7 billion by 2020.