Australia should show China more "respect", says New Zealand

Australian Associated Press
·2-min read

New Zealand's trade minister has moved to ease tensions with Canberra after suggesting Australia could improve its relations with Beijing by showing the Chinese government more "respect".

Damien O'Connor, appearing on American business channel CNBC on Wednesday, said NZ had a "mature relationship" with China and had always been able to raise issues of concern.

"I can't speak for Australia and the way it runs its diplomatic relationships, but clearly if they were to follow us and show respect, I guess a little more diplomacy from time to time and be cautious with wording, then they too could hopefully be in a similar situation," he said.

The interview followed NZ and China this week formally signing an upgrade to their 2008 free trade deal.

People wearing face masks visit the Yellow Crane Tower on January 28, 2021 in Wuhan, China.
People wear masks at the Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, China. Source: Getty Images

China and Australia, meanwhile, are mired in disputes and Beijing has targeted Australian exports with sanctions including on barley, wine, cotton, coal and beef.

Beijing has objected to the banning of Chinese company Huawei from Australia's 5G network, Australian laws to counter foreign interference and the Canberra's call for an independent inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic.

Following his "respect" comment on Wednesday Mr O'Connor on Thursday called Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan.

In a statement Mr O'Connor said he had "spoken with my Australian counterpart earlier today to reiterate, as I said in the interview, that we do not speak for Australia on this or any other matter".

Mr Tehan said in a statement on Thursday evening that Australia's relationship with China was based on "an assessment of our national interests".

"Our approach to trade policy will be guided by three Ps: proactivity, principle and patience.

"We pursue engagement with China on the basis of mutual benefit, and the complementarity of our economies makes us natural trading partners.

"We are always open to dialogue as the best way to resolve differences."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison reacts during a press conference in the Prime Ministers courtyard in Canberra, Australia.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison led calls for an investigation into China's involvement with the spread of Covid-19 last year. Source: Getty Images (file pic)

Liberal MP and former diplomat Dave Sharma said the advice from NZ was not "particularly insightful or helpful," Nine newspapers reported on Thursday.

"The idea that Australia's tone or wording is somehow responsible for challenges in our relationship with China is one we fundamentally reject and is at odds with reality," he said.

"It betrays a lack of acquaintance with basic facts that I would not expect from a close friend and partner like NZ."

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