PM makes the most of her top table invitation.

Jacinda Ardern's debut visit as Prime Minister to China has resulted in a welcome reset in the relationship with New Zealand's major trading partner.

Relations between New Zealand and China had become strained. But Ardern did finally get her invitation to the top table in Beijing and made the most of it by deepening her personal connection with Premier Li Keqiang.

The talks did not produce any immediate gains for New Zealand business. But there has been a re-commitment to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and New Zealand, which is important given the $30 billion of two-way trade between our two countries.


Ardern can also chalk up a commitment from the premier to step up the pace in the lengthy negotiations on an upgrade of the 2008 bilateral free trade deal. The next round of negotiations will take place soon and Ardern says joint efforts will be made towards reaching an agreement as soon as possible.

There are still some meaty issues under discussion — particularly foreign investment.
On this score, Li has underlined China's stance to welcome foreign investment and create a more open, favourable and inclusive business environment, providing a level playing field for all companies in China.

China has said it will significantly broaden market access and create a more attractive investment environment. Last month, the National People's Congress of China passed a foreign investment law, which will provide legislative protection and a better business environment for overseas investors — something which will be welcome to New Zealand companies which have found investing in China not for the faint-hearted.

Both the Prime Minister and Li papered over the recent cracks which have emerged in the relationship — particularly over Huawei.

Ardern has endeavoured to present the Government Communications Security Bureau's decision to refuse Spark to use Huawei in its 5G upgrade as a "security issue"— not one that her Government can rule on.

China does not buy this. In comments to the Herald, diplomats underline that Chinese companies operating in New Zealand markets have made important contributions to New Zealand's economic and social development.

"Huawei has had good co-operation with NZ local telecommunication companies, and has offered quality services with competitive prices. Huawei observes the laws and regulations of New Zealand as well as international rules. There is no evidence to prove that Huawei poses threat to New Zealand," they said.

At the Great Hall of the People, Li underlined that China also wanted a fair, open and transparent business environment for Chinese companies abroad.


China is a fascinating, dynamic and fast-changing market.

In our China Business report out today we report on the opportunities that companies like Fonterra and Mainfreight are leveraging, examine what is behind the Year of Tourism and a raft of other changes important for business.