China's Li signals demand for New Zealand dairy and meat

Chinese Premier Li Qiang meets NZ PM Luxon in Wellington, New Zealand

By Lucy Craymer

WELLINGTON (Reuters) -There is a growing demand in China for high-quality dairy, beef and lamb products from New Zealand, Premier Li Qiang said on Friday, the second day of his trip to the Pacific island nation.

Li's trip to the region, which also includes a four-day stopover in Australia starting on Saturday, is aimed at strengthening trade and diplomatic ties with the two Pacific nations. China is the biggest trading partner of both nations.

Li visited the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research in Auckland on Friday, a government agency tasked with promoting the farming, food and beverage industries, before meetings and a dinner with business people, academics and diplomats.

Li said more bilateral business opportunities would emerge in the areas of energy, information technology, biomedicine and other emerging industries, Chinese state media reported.

He reiterated that China would work with New Zealand to upgrade their comprehensive strategic partnership, and stressed the need for increased cooperation in services trade and cross-border e-commerce.

His comments came as Chinese firms formally applied for an anti-dumping probe into pork imports from the European Union, escalating tensions after the bloc imposed anti-subsidy duties on Chinese-made electric vehicles.Global food companies from dairy producers to pork exporters are on high alert for potential retaliatory tariffs from China.

New Zealand and China on Thursday signed bilateral agreements on trade and climate during Li's trip, the highest level Chinese visit to New Zealand in seven years.

BOOMING TRADE

Li has promised that Beijing will further expand market access, create a market-oriented and internationalised business environment, and he encouraged entrepreneurs to seize opportunities, Chinese state media said.

Beijing sees itself as a key part of New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon's plan to double exports over the next 10 years.

China is already New Zealand's largest trading partner with bilateral trade totalling nearly NZ$38 billion ($23.27 billion).

New Zealand remains keen to further boost trade ties with China but has also toughened its stance over the last year, accusing Beijing of hacking its parliament and noting what it characterises as a growing Chinese threat to Pacific security.

After his meeting with Li on Thursday Luxon said that as well as discussing trade, he had also raised concerns about issues such as Chinese interference.

Li's meeting with New Zealand opposition leader Chris Hipkins was cancelled on Friday, due to Hipkins facing travel issues.

($1 = 1.6329 New Zealand dollars)

(Reporting by Alasdair Pal in Sydney; Additional reporting by Liz Lee in Beijing; Editing by Michael Perry and Gareth Jones)