New Zealand trade minister on trade deal with China, China-Australia tensions | Instant News

General view of the Australian flag seen outside the Great Hall of the People on April 9, 2013 in Beijing, China.

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SINGAPORE – Nationalism is not the way to enter diplomatic relations, New Zealand’s trade minister told CNBC as he called for more trade and multilateral relations around the world.

In fact, the world needs to establish “overall security” – especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic, Damien O’Connor told “Squawk Box Asia” on Wednesday, as part of CNBC’s coverage of World Economic Forum Davos Agenda.

“Nationalism is not the way forward – we look forward to building multilateral trade and diplomatic relations around the world and playing our part,” added O’Connor, who is also the country’s agriculture minister.

In recent years, protectionism and nationalism have taken the front seat, because countries such as the US and some in Europe focus primarily on their economy and domestic problems, sometimes at the expense of cooperation and collaboration with others.

Experts call the strained relations between the US and China the new “Cold War,” as tensions spill over from trade to technology and beyond.

They also warned the corona virus pandemic will trigger more protectionist policies among countries, as they seek to limit the economic damage from the virus.

On Tuesday, New Zealand signed a trade agreement with China, which gives Kiwi exports greater access to the Asian economic giant. The deal paved the way for tariffs to be removed or lowered on many New Zealand goods, from dairy products and seafood to timber.

Offer to mediate

The deal comes at a time when China remains embroiled in tense trade tensions with countries such as Australia and the US

Regarding the timing, O’Connor noted: “It really sends a very clear signal to the world that China, and we ourselves are, of course, supporting a strong trade agreement… backed by good law.”

Relations between China and Australia have deteriorated since last year Canberra supports international investigations into China’s handling of the corona virus pandemic. As a result, Beijing has been months targeting a growing list of imported products from Down Under – set tariffs for wine and barley, and suspend beef imports.

New Zealand has offered to broker a ceasefire between the two countries, said that this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit could be an opportunity for New Zealand to bring the two sides to the negotiating table, according to Reuters.

On New Zealand’s offer of mediation, O’Connor said: “We have a… mature relationship with China, and we can always raise issues of concern.”

“I can’t speak for Australia and the way it conducts its diplomatic relations but it is clear that they follow us and … talk … (with) a little more diplomacy from time to time, and be careful with words … hopefully (they) can be in the same situation, “he said

Meanwhile, Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg told CNBC on Monday that they will continue to advocate for its national interests but are keen to see strained relations with China improve.


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