Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it is completely natural for New Zealand to review its policy settings with Hong Kong following new security laws imposed by China.
She made the comments in her opening address at the China Business Summit 2020 in Auckland this morning in front of some 400 business people including chief executives from Fonterra, ANZ and Air New Zealand.
Former Prime Minister Helen Clark, Chinese ambassador Wu Xi and opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Simon Bridges were also in attendance.
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Ardern described the NZ-China relationship as "evolved" and "mature," and one in which the government works through issues "constructively" and "regularly."
"Many businesses do business there and because of our independence it is quite natural for us to raise concerns with this, as it represents real and actual issues for New Zealanders who live there or operate there."
Earlier this month, the Chinese embassy released a statement suggesting NZ butt out of the issue.
Questioned about the country's position during heightened tensions between the US and China, she said NZ's independence was needed more than ever.
"This is not new, this is where New Zealand is well placed, we have been entirely predictable in our engagement and there's nothing more than having an entirely predictable approach."
Arden said it was vital to look beyond economic benefits and talked about "cultural exchanges" with Chinese counterparts, because deepening the relationship would make it easier when NZ navigated trickier issues.
On her government's position of continuing to allow Huawei components to be used in NZ, following the UK's ban of the company's components in its 5G network, Ardern pointed to the framework in place that removes politics from the process.
"When it comes to telecommunications there has been a lot of pressure, some perceived pressure around engagement from a number of different quarters. We have a regulatory framework and an utterly independent way which allows us to go through a process which allows us to engagement with and work with others in a way which is not politicised," she said.
Ardern added that while the impact of covid-19 was "jarring" for tourism operators, they should now look at an emphasis on quality instead of quantity.
She was followed by Trade Minister David Parker, who reiterated differences between NZ and China were "normal," and that "we take pride in our values and we are respected for this."
Parker noted that the China was one of the first countries to emerge from the worst effect of covid-19 and NZ was benefiting from higher dairy and meat demand because of it.
The summit continues today.