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Claire Trevett

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

John Key dines with China

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key with Chinese Premier President Xi Jinping.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key with Chinese Premier President Xi Jinping.

Prime Minister John Key showed off his chopsticks skills over some homestyle Beijing food last night at a dinner hosted for him by China President Xi Jinping - and President Xi also accepted an invite in return to visit New Zealand later this year.

The dinner invite was a rare honour and followed a meeting between the pair at which Mr Key said President Xi had said he would visit New Zealand when the G20 Summit was held in Australia in November.

Mr Key has timed the election for September so it does not disrupt potential visits by world leaders while they are in the region for the G20.

Mr Key used chopsticks for the meal of about 18 people held at the Grand Hall of the People.

He said the menu for the meal was 'extensive' and included pork, chicken, duck and scallops. There was also a special dish from President Xi's home province - a Sichuan fish soup "which was very hot and spicy."

"It was a fantastic meal. I'm not losing any weight in China."

It was a relatively intimate meal with just 9 people from each country attending.

Mr Key said the pair discussed a wide range of topics, including the lift of the trade target to $30 billion.

He said the President had also said China had a long term interest in partnering with New Zealand.

The primary reason for the trip was to tender explanations of how New Zealand had dealt with the fallout from the botulism scare. He said China's leadership accepted it was a false scare, and the agreement by both Premier Li Keqiang and the President to meet was evidence they accepted New Zealand's assurances. The last New Zealand Prime Minister to Although China's leaders have not said so publicly, Mr Key said those meetings and the dinner clearly signalled that China was happy with the way New Zealand had responded.

Mr Key has faced questions about Justice Minister Judith Collins throughout the trip, but did not believe it had overshadowed it. He said the government had achieved direct convertibility of the currency, set a new trade target of $30 billion, and invested more resources in China.

"My own guess, and I may be proved wrong, is there will be a bunch of New Zealanders who look at what I'm doing and say 'at least the bloke's trying to advance things for New Zealand.

They're probably a lot more interested in that in the Labour Party who have got themselves down in the weeds and are just not focused on issues that matter. That's politics, and when we go to the polls in September, we will see who they think has done a better job."

Mr Key arrived in Shanghai this morning where he will spend a day on tourism promotions before travelling to Hong Kong.

- APNZ

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