Talks with China to ramp up, Ardern says

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says her government will ramp up its political efforts with China and has flagged a series of diplomatic visits for the year.

Speaking to the China Business Summit in Auckland on Monday, Ms Ardern described the relationship with world’s second-largest economy as one of the four most important, along with , the United States and Britain.

“The tempo of engagement is picking up quickly, starting, appropriately enough, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Winston Peters) who will make an official visit to Beijing in the near future,” she said.

Ms Ardern said she was also planning a trip to China herself later in the year and reports suggested Trade Minister David Parker also has a visit on the cards.

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw will travel to Beijing in July.

Mr Peters later told reporters he would be meeting with his Chinese counterparts in about a week to discuss trade and North Korea.

“The object is to extend our relationship at a time when trade and trade-related matters are seriously critical, he said.

New Zealand in 2008 became the first developed nation to sign a free-trade deal with China and the countries share an extensive trade relationship, particularly for New Zealand’s key dairy industry.

The previous government in September agreed to negotiating a mandate to upgrade the deal.

Since announcing New Zealand’s government would be stepping up its involvement in the Pacific earlier this year – including more than $NZ700 million ($A645 million) in new aid – both Ms Ardern and Mr Peters have avoided naming China’s growing influence in the region as a concern or the cause behind the move.

Mr Peters on Monday again declined to name China, citing political tact and saying he was concerned about political interference from a number of countries, not just one.

During her speech, Ms Ardern welcomed China’s “greater engagement on international issues, in accordance with existing regional norms”.

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