Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Key aiming for turn of fortune for Fonterra

Fonterra chairman John Wilson was trying to show that Fonterra has lost its 'fortress Fonterra' image and accepting it has responsibilities that go beyond its bottom line. Photo / Richard Robinson
Fonterra chairman John Wilson was trying to show that Fonterra has lost its 'fortress Fonterra' image and accepting it has responsibilities that go beyond its bottom line. Photo / Richard Robinson

Fonterra's offices in Beijing have a room with walls made of red glass where the business is done.

Red is the colour of fortune in China, a strong signifier of luck in a country where symbolism means a lot. Unfortunately for Fonterra, its recent problems have related to red faces rather than fortune.

"President Xi is renowned for ushering in an era of restraint - including reining back the opulence of state banquets to a modest four courses and a soup. But the invite at least indicates Key will not be made to only eat humble pie on the visit."
Claire Trevett

Key's arrival to an unseasonably warm late winter in Beijing yesterday was largely aimed at turning that around again. There was a promising sign when Key received a belated invite to a formal dinner hosted by China's President Xi Jinping tonight.

President Xi is renowned for ushering in an era of restraint - including reining back the opulence of state banquets to a modest four courses and a soup. But the invite at least indicates Key will not be made to only eat humble pie on the visit.

The downside of it for Fonterra is that Key will miss a function hosted by Fonterra at which the Prime Minister was to meet its clients. The good thing about the frugality of Xi's banquets is that they are no longer drawn out affairs - so Key will be able to make it to a dairy industry dinner for exporters.

On the eve of Key's arrival to atone for Fonterra's lapses, the company's chairman John Wilson was fronting up to media. In the red office, a group of Fonterra staff and local Chinese clients were trapped, unable to get out past the press conference.

Wilson was trying to show that Fonterra has lost its 'fortress Fonterra' image and accepting it has responsibilities that go beyond its bottom line. He pointed to the 40-year long presence of Fonterra in China over which it has built up strong relationships that enable it to deal with problems.

Yesterday, on his way to the airport to fly to Beijing, Key would have seen a sign for the reason of his visit: tins of infant formula stacked up in the duty-free shops at Auckland International Airport.

They are aimed at the milk-powder tourists - tourists from Asia who visit partly to stock up on New Zealand infant formula.

Fonterra's offices are located on the Road of Everlasting Peace. The visit of atonement by Key and Wilson shows that is much a goal as a street address.

- NZ Herald

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