Create More ‘Firsts’ in China-New Zealand Friendship and Cooperation
– Keynote Speech at the Welcoming Gala Luncheon in New Zealand
H.E. Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
Auckland, 28 March 2017
The Rt Hon Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Kia Ora! It is a great pleasure for me to come to beautiful Auckland and meet friends both old and new today. On behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to express heartfelt appreciation to our host the government of New Zealand for the very warm hospitality and thoughtful arrangement accorded to the Chinese delegation. My high tribute also goes to all those who have long been committed to and supported the growth of China-New Zealand relations.
This is my third visit to the “land of the long white cloud”. With its natural beauty famed as “100% Pure”, New Zealand presents nothing short of a feast to the eye. Here one cannot help but feel light-hearted even with a full agenda of official business.
Although our countries are located in different hemispheres and thousands of miles away from each other, the friendly interactions between our peoples date back centuries. As early as in 1866, more than 1,000 Chinese laborers traveled across the rough seas to arrive at Dunedin. For many years, Chinese-New Zealanders have contributed their share to local development through hard work. In 1927, Mr. Rewi Alley went to China and spent 60 years in my country, sharing both happiness and suffering with the Chinese people. He has since become a symbol of the friendship between our peoples.
Over the past 45 years since diplomatic ties were established, China-New Zealand relations have maintained steady and sound development. Now our relationship is at its best ever, with cooperation in various areas reaching unprecedented breadth and depth.
Politically, our countries enjoy close high-level interactions and deepening mutual trust. The relationship was elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership during President Xi Jinping’s successful visit here in November 2014, marking a new milestone in the development of our relations.
Economically, China is the largest trading partner of New Zealand. Despite the headwinds of the international financial crisis, trade between our countries has continued to grow by 12% annually on average during the past eight years, reaching nearly $12 billion in 2016. One third of China’s imported dairy products come from New Zealand. Two-way investment has gained momentum, with total stock of mutual investment topping $8 billion.
On people-to-people exchanges, our cooperation has yielded fruitful results. About 60,000 Chinese students are now studying in New Zealand, the largest foreign students community in this country. And over 400,000 Chinese tourists have visited New Zealand, making China your second largest overseas tourism market. We have pioneered a “Three Brothers” partnership which brings together a New Zealand university and two Chinese universities, one from Eastern and the other from Western China in a unique cooperative arrangement. This has become a highlight in our people-to-people exchanges.
The number of our sister provinces/states and cities has grown to 34 pairs. The Chinese language has gained growing popularity in New Zealand. This has been evidenced by the presence of three Confucius Institutes and 29 Confucius Classrooms. More and more local schools now offer Chinese language courses.
New Zealand has been a pace-setter among Western developed countries in terms of relations with China. It was the first Western developed country to conclude bilateral negotiations on China’s accession into the WTO, the first to recognize China’s full market economy status, the first to sign a bilateral free trade agreement with China and the first to become a founding member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. All these “firsts” speak volumes about our pioneering, special and exemplary relationship, which has delivered real benefits to both peoples.
The friendship between our countries is a good example to show that differences in size, social system and cultural tradition as well as geographical distance do not necessarily stand in the way of growing bilateral ties. So long as countries treat each other with respect and as equals, and view each other’s development as opportunities rather than challenges, they can always find common ground while shelving or even transcending differences and become good friends and partners who understand and trust each other. Just like the Pacific Ocean that never dries up, our friendship and cooperation enjoys limitless potential and great vitality.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Economic globalization, featuring trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, has been an important driving force for the fast growth of the world economy in the past decades. As far as I can see, one of the secrets to New Zealand’s success is its pro-trade approach, and its readiness to embrace economic globalization and swim in the vast ocean of global competition. Similarly, China owes a great deal to opening up in its fast development over the past 30-plus years. The experience of both our countries has shown that only openness and inclusiveness can lead a country to prosperity and development.
The international political and economic landscape has been going through profound and complex changes. The backlash against globalization, emerging isolationism and resurgent protectionism all pose challenges to the existing international economic order and system. After 15 years of negotiations, results from the Doha Round have fallen short of expectations. Regional economic integration encountered setbacks, as some countries turn notably inward in policy priorities. All this has cast a dark shadow over the already-fragile global economy. People are worried about the prospect of economic globalization.
Both China and New Zealand have been beneficiaries and important contributors to economic globalization. We hold the same position and have acted in concert on this issue. No matter how the international environment will evolve and what development stage China reaches, we will always remain committed to opening up wider to the world.
China wants to work with New Zealand and others to jointly forge a community of shared future for mankind, and improve the global economic governance system to make economic globalization work for more countries and more communities. It is important to jointly uphold the authority and effectiveness of the multilateral trading regime, take an active part in multilateral trading negotiations, and comply with WTO rules.
China believes that regional free trade arrangements should be open and transparent. We are ready to accelerate the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and advance the building of a Free Trade Area in the Asia-Pacific. We are also open to any other free trade arrangements that are conducive to regional economic integration.
China advocates free trade; we also believe in fair trade. The two are not at odds with each other; they are the two sides of the same coin. Free trade is the very premise for fair trade. Without free trade, there will be no fair trade to talk about. No one should write off free trade just because issues such as trade deficit may arise. A closed-door policy will not resolve the issues; nor will it benefit anyone. Although China runs a trade deficit with New Zealand, we have not resorted to protectionist measures. Instead, we insist on expanding market access to each other to make the pie of our shared interests bigger. We believe this is the right way to go. All countries need to categorically reject protectionism, exercise restraint in the use of trade remedies, and avoid politicizing or escalating trade frictions. Trade wars will not lead to fair trade; it will only hurt free trade.
Economic globalization has become deeply interconnected with the trend of peace, development and cooperation. It would not have come this far without a generally peaceful international environment for nearly 70 years. Our world is now seeing heightened geopolitical risks, escalating tensions in regional hotspots and conflicts and rising non-traditional security challenges such as terrorism and refugee crises. All these are eroding the foundation of peace and development. The Asia Pacific is home to both China and New Zealand, and its peace and stability concern both our countries. Regional countries, big or small, all bear responsibilities for peace and stability in our region.
The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and delicate. China calls on all parties concerned to refrain from words and deeds that are perceived as provocative by the other side and escalate tension, work to calm down the situation and return to the track of dialogue.
With respect to the South China Sea, China has been calling for resolution by parties directly concerned through consultation and negotiation. It is our hope that countries outside the region will do more that is conducive to peace and stability. Freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea has never been a problem. In the framework of fully and effectively implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), China and ASEAN countries are actively advancing consultations on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) and have made good progress. Things are turning in a positive direction and this is in the interest of peace and stability of the region and the whole world.
The untold sufferings that have been inflicted upon the Chinese people by warfare and turmoil has made us all the more aware of the value of peace and stability. China will remain committed to its road of peaceful development and the tendency of countries to seek hegemony as they get powerful will never be repeated in China’s case.