Chinese rolled out red carpet - Key

Prime Minister John Key
Prime Minister John Key

Prime Minister John Key said the Chinese government had "rolled out the red carpet" for his visit to China.

Mr Key said that the warm welcome showed there was no ongoing damage to New Zealand's reputation in China as a result of the Fonterra botulism scare.

Speaking to TV One's Q+A while in China, Mr Key said the consequences of another food safety scare could be "absolutely disastrous" for New Zealand. "Because in the end our brand is underpinned on the quality and perception of that quality and safety from consumers."

But he said it was inevitable that there would be future food safety issues, it was a question of how New Zealand responded.

"We produce an awful lot of food, and by definition, from time to time, that food will show up issues that we need to take seriously," he said.

"The questions is how as a country and how do our companies respond?"

Mr Key said there had been no impact on demand as a result of the Fonterra botch-up, in fact demand had been growing.

Last week's visit to the country had also been very positive, he said.

"By any measure, the Chinese government has absolutely rolled out the red carpet for us, and in fact, in their country, that is of huge importance and symbolism."

Mr Key denied New Zealand was in danger of putting to much emphasis on China, putting the country at risk from a collapse in that market.

"It just doesn't make sense to turn your back on that opportunity.

"But I think what is really important for the government is to have a plan that is much broader than just China, and we do that."

Mr Key was also visiting Hong Kong, which he said represented only a fraction of the sales of China, but "we're still here because we're still focusing on this market, as we will when we visit other European markets."

Mr Key also told Q+A his visit had not been overshadowed by gaffes from senior government ministers Judith Collins and Hekia Parata.

"I don't believe so. There are always domestic issues I have to deal with along the way," he said.

He said there were lessons to be learned and that the ministers would reflect and be more careful in future.

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