8 Aug 2016

China gives assurances in top level trade talks - PM

1:46 pm on 8 August 2016

There have been discussions with China at ministerial level on trade links with New Zealand, says Prime Minister John Key.

His comments follow last week's temporary halt by Zespri of kiwifruit exports to China, after fungus was found in two containers during routine checks.

Zespri said shipping to China would be halted for up to a week to give time to implement new protocols. It is working with suppliers and the Ministry for Primary Industries on extra precautions before shipping.

Prime Minister John Key told Morning Report he had assurances from Chinese authorities that the halt was due to technical issues.

Zespri had voluntarily stopped exports and did not dispute that the fungus was there.

"We've had it before with apples, so the issue is a matter of establishing a protocol.

"My understanding, talking to the trade minister last night, is that they are working their way through that, they're looking to resume market supply quickly," said Mr Key.

"I know people want to join dots on other issues but they don't believe that to be the case."

The temporary kiwifruit trading halt comes after Chinese officials warned Zespri last month there could be retaliation if New Zealand investigated claims of steel dumping.

"There's been discussions between the New Zealand trade minister and the Chinese trade minister as late as last week about - not specifically on this issue - but about the broader trade relationship," said Mr Key.

There were "assurances from the Chinese side that this is a very important relationship with New Zealand and that that trade relationship is not threatened".

The Chinese trade minister gave no reason to believe there may be retaliatory action from China over steel.

"I'd say it's the opposite.

"They continue to assure us that while there might be technical issues that we're dealing with those issues are a function of the amount of trade we do with each other but don't threaten the overall relationship."