The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Chinese Ambassador plans to visit all of New Zealand

Ambassador Wang Lutong.
Ambassador Wang Lutong.

New Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong doesn't want to spend too much time cooped up in his Wellington embassy during his stint as China's top diplomatic representative in New Zealand.

He says a "people-to-people link" is the foundation for the booming bilateral trade between this country and the world's second-largest economy.

With that in mind, Wang says he plans to hit the provinces as much as possible.

"It's my intention to visit every part of New Zealand and every electorate of your members of Parliament to meet the ordinary, average New Zealanders," he told the Herald during a visit to Auckland to attend the weekend's Lantern Festival. "I don't think New Zealand is all about Wellington."

Wang, who at 45 could well be China's youngest Ambassador in any of its embassies around the world, said he had met every Cabinet minister since arriving in New Zealand three months ago.

It's no surprise that he's been so swiftly and comprehensively introduced to the country's top politicians.

China overtook Australia to become New Zealand's largest trading partner last year as surging Chinese dairy demand pushed annual exports to $9.96 billion, compared with $6.86 billion in 2012. Imports reached $8.26 billion, up from $7.71 billion a year earlier, taking two-way trade (which is projected to reach $20 billion by 2015) to $18.22 billion.

Wang said bilateral relations between the two countries were "very much in good shape", despite the various difficulties of 2013, such as Fonterra's botulism fiasco in August and the DCD event in January, when traces of the nitrate inhibitor used on farmland turned up in New Zealand milk products.

"I think it's inevitable that something could erupt because we have a huge volume of trade and great numbers of [Chinese] visitors here," he said. "The way we dealt with that [botulism false alarm] problem showed that we are very much in deep trust."

Wang, who was born in China's northeastern Jilin province, which borders North Korea, said his Government was "reviewing the progress" of the free trade agreement it signed with New Zealand in 2008.

"It's our intention to update this FTA," he said. "I think this will give us a lot of opportunities."

- NZ Herald

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