PM’s China visit will show us if there are political benefits in a global halo

Prime  Minister  Jacinda Ardern’s  mission  to  Beijing is  crucial   for  the  relationship  between  the two  countries,  not  just because it  could give a vital  nudge  to the negotiation  of a  revamped  free trade agreement.

But it  will  offer  an  insight into   whether the global halo  effect on  Ardern   as a  consequence of  her  actions in the wake of the appalling  Christchurch massacre  translates  into  a  solid   political  influence.

Even though  she has had  to pare  back  the mission, eliminating  visits to  two other Chinese  cities,   she  is still due to  meet  President  Xi  Jinping  and Premier  Li  Keqiang,  (and she will  open  the  new  complex housing the  NZ embassy).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that she is travelling to China next week to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, and to open the New Zealand embassy.

The  visit  has been  planned   for  months   but  appeared to  be   put on hold   after  several  kinks had appeared   in the bilateral relationship.  Observers  opined  that   NZ  had  fallen back in  the  queue.

Whether  the  sudden  declaration that  the  mission  would go  ahead,  even in a  truncated form,  is  due  to  that  halo effect  will  only  be  confirmed  if  in  fact  there  is  action  on  the issues   which matter  most to  NZ.

The  signs are  propitious.   And  from  China’s  point of  view it  could  be  useful   to  play  up  the significance   of  a  major advance in the free  trade  pact  at a  time   when that  country  is engaged in a  so-called “trade  war”  with the US.

Negotiations  over the revision  of the  free  trade  agreement (the  first  China  signed with  another  country)  have dragged  on.  Meanwhile  Australia  has   gained  advantages  over  NZ exporters  on  several  key products  which    need to  be   equalised, if   not  tilted in  NZ’s favour.

And  issues  which have  created  friction  such as  the decision from New Zealand’s GCSB to block Chinese telco Huawei from building a 5G network in NZ – due, in part, to concerns over spying and the company’s proximity to China’s ruling communist party –  have to  be ironed out.

Ardern said it was an important visit.

 “NZ places a high priority on its relationship with China.Our businesses value the relationships they have and I do look forward to our ongoing engagement.”

“I expect our discussions will include a broad range of bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest, including on upgrading our free trade agreement, protecting and promoting our rules-based international trading system and combating climate change.Through the terrorist attack in Christchurch, we’ve been served with a tragic reminder that NZ is no more immune than other members of our global community, to problems and indeed divisions, facing humanity.

“China is an important regional and global actor, with whom we must work on challenges facing the global community and those critical to the security and prosperity of our region,” she said.

But the need to attend a national memorial service scheduled for Friday, and be back in Parliament by Tuesday to usher through quick law changes to ban military-style semi-automatic weapons, means Ardern only had time for 24 hours on the ground in Beijing.

Ardern said China had been “incredibly accommodating of those needs”.

She confirmed Trade Minister David Parker would be leading a business delegation to China next month, when he attended the Belt and Road Economic Forum.

 

One thought on “PM’s China visit will show us if there are political benefits in a global halo

  1. Perhaps the halo will embolden Ardern to intercede with Xi on behalf of the Uighurs, as well as the two Canadians held hostage by Beijing? Or will she do a “Peters”?

    Like

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