17 Nov 2022

PM Jacinda Ardern to meet China's President Xi Jinping at APEC summit

7:46 am on 17 November 2022
(File photo) Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping  before their meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on 1 April, 2019.

File photo. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and China's President Xi Jinping met in Beijing in April, 2019. Photo: AFP / Pool

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in coming days with a promise to discuss the issues that divide the New Zealand and China as well as their common ground.

It is understood she will have a formal face to face meeting with the Chinese leader at the APEC summit in Bangkok, Thailand, at the end of the week.

Ardern has yet to confirm the meeting but said assuming that it happened she would be upfront and frank about their differences as well as the two countries' shared interests.

"We say nothing publicly that we don't say privately. We're very transparent, and we're very consistent."

She said likely topics would be global security issues such as the Ukraine war, as well as China's assertive policy regarding Taiwan, and the oppression of the the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

Ardern repeated New Zealand's concerns about China's foray into the South Pacific earlier in the year, and the prospect of military co-operation with some states, such as the Solomon Islands.

"China has had a relationship in the Pacific that goes back many, many years. Our concern is the nature of some of that engagement.

"We're opposed to militarisation of our region, that's not to say there's not a place for aid and development, for infrastructure development."

The two leaders spoke in 2021 by telephone, when New Zealand was the chair of APEC, but last met face to face in 2019.

She said the two countries had common interests, which she would seek to build on, but she would not be swayed into taking a softer line because China is New Zealand's biggest trading partner.

Ardern also hoped that China's closer links with Russia and its sometimes public support of the attack on Ukraine, would offer an opportunity to influence Russia to end the conflict.

"[New Zealand wants] to seek a change in position by Russia, and that includes talking to those who may have closer relationships."

Ardern's meeting would follow Xi Jinping's meetings with US President Joe Biden, Australian PM Anthony Albanese, and Canada's PM Justin Trudeau, which all took place at the recent G20 summit in Indonesia.

Ardern confirmed she would have formal talks with the APEC host Thailand Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and an informal meetings with Trudeau.

Other expected formal one on one meetings include the heads of the Philippines, South Korean president, and Indonesian president, all of whom are new in office.

Ardern will also have a "pull-aside" meeting with US Vice President Kamala Harris.

The prime minister heads to the APEC meeting following a trade mission to Vietnam to rejuvenate the relationship between the two countries, which was disrupted by the pandemic.

Ardern met senior political leaders and hosted several trade promotions for New Zealand companies wanting to break into the export market worth $2 billion a year.

She said her role had been to help open doors at a senior level which New Zealand businesses could walk through and start selling.

Ardern opened a retail outlet for the Ecostore environmentally based household goods in an upmarket shopping centre.

Ecostore chief executive Pablo Kraus said the publicity from the prime minister's attendance was overwhelming and immensely valuable.

During her week-long South East Asian trip Ardern earlier attended the East Asia Summit in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.