Stephen Jacobi, the trade lobbyist and former diplomat, will step down as executive director of the New Zealand China Council at the end of the year.

The council was expecting to announce the move at the end of November but the role is already being advertised internally at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A frequent commentator on New Zealand's relationship with China as well as on trade deals and global trade generally through his role with the International Business Forum, Jacobi has been executive director of the council since mid-2016.

A former diplomat who was previously New Zealand's Deputy High Commissioner to Canada and Assistant Trade Commissioner in Paris, Jacobi said his contract expired at the end of the year and would not be renewed.


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"I was only initially appointed on a temporary basis and I haven't been doing it full time and I think we have reached a stage now when we need a full time director, so that is what we are seeking interest in."

The council was also planning a further governance restructure while there were other work opportunities "that I am interested in".

The role does not appear to have been advertised externally, although Jacobi said the organisations which fund the council had been asked about potential candidates.

While the role required the skills of a diplomat, he did not expect only Mfat staff to be considered.

"The council is funded ... a bit less than two thirds by the Government. It has an independent governance structure, but it nevertheless relies on a very close alignment with the government," Jacobi said.