Chinese Premier Li Qiang to Visit New Zealand This Week

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese Premier Li Qiang will visit New Zealand later this week amid rising tensions between Beijing and its western trading partners.

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The visit, announced by New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon Monday in Wellington, marks 10 years since the conclusion of the New Zealand China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and will be the first by a Chinese premier since 2017. The exact dates of the visit were not disclosed.

New Zealand’s new center-right government, which took office late last year, is seeking to deepen its ties with like-minded western nations such as Australia, the US and UK and is considering whether to participate in pillar two of the Aukus security pact, which China opposes. Last month, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the South Pacific nation is “seriously concerned” by China’s increased interest in the Pacific.

“New Zealand and China engage where we have shared interests, and we speak frankly and constructively with each other where we have differences,” Luxon said in a statement. “The challenging global outlook makes it vital that we are sharing perspectives and engaging China on key issues that matter to New Zealand.”

Li’s trip to New Zealand follows a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in March. Wang met with Peters in Wellington, where they discussed trade, investment, the Indo-Pacific region as well as increased tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait.

The visit also comes amid escalating trade tensions between Beijing and western countries. The European Union is expected to notify China this week that it will impose tariffs on electric vehicle imports. Beijing has hinted at possible retaliatory measures on European products, including agriculture and dairy, which are major exports for New Zealand and Australia.

China is New Zealand’s biggest trading partner.

Luxon also announced he will lead a business delegation to Japan June 16-20, where he will meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

--With assistance from Jasmine Ng.

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