China Premier Li to visit New Zealand this week says Prime Minister Chris Luxon

Li will be the first Chinese premier to visit New Zealand since 2017, embarking on a trip that is widely tipped to also take him to Australia.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang
Chinese Premier Li QiangPhoto | Express

WELLINGTON: Chinese Premier Li Qiang will visit New Zealand this week,said New Zeland Prime Minister Chris Luxon on Monday,a rare visit expected to focus on bolstering trade while setting aside security concerns.

Li will be the first Chinese premier to visit New Zealand since 2017, embarking on a trip that is widely tipped to also take him to Australia.

China is New Zealand's largest export destination, and Wellington has been one of Beijing's closest partners among Western democracies.

But relations have become strained in recent years as China has looked to expand its military and diplomatic reach across the Pacific.

"I look forward to warmly welcoming Premier Li in New Zealand. The premier's visit is a valuable opportunity for exchanges on areas of cooperation between New Zealand and China, Luxon said in a statement."

Luxon said Li -- China's number two official -- would arrive to a ceremonial welcome and official dinner "later this week", before a series of bilateral meetings.

Li follows a string of high-powered Chinese delegates who have made the trip to New Zealand in recent months.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi held high-level talks during a visit to the capital Wellington earlier this year.

 Smoothing differences

Jason Young, an expert on China-New Zealand relations, said that New Zealand already has close to a third of our exports going to China. We're kind of at saturation point. Whereas for China, there's a lot more momentum to improve relations.

Li is expected to visit Australia after New Zealand, although Canberra has yet to confirm that leg of the trip.

"The potential visit of the Chinese premier will be confirmed in the usual way," Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters on Monday.

China and Australia have been patching up their own relationship in the wake of a bitter and costly trade dispute.

Starting in 2020, a slew of Australia's most lucrative export commodities were effectively banned from China.

But as relations have improved under a new government in Canberra, China has dropped tariffs on Australian beef, barley and wine, halted an import ban on timber and resumed shipments of coal.

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