Exporters hope China and New Zealand can keep politics out of their long-standing trade relationship.
It comes after the government has joined a group of United States allies who are pointing the finger at China for sponsoring cybercriminal activities around the world.
An analyst has suggested New Zealand may face trade ramifications from the clash, but the export and agricultural sectors hope the impact will be limited.
Export New Zealand executive director Catherine Beard said the government’s decision to condemn China for cybercrime was a necessary but difficult step.
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“I think New Zealand really has no choice but to speak up when we discover that kind of activity. It’s the kind of thing I don’t think New Zealand would do to any other country.”
Beard said the trade ramifications of the government’s stance were a major concern, but she hoped the two countries could keep politics and trade separate.
“We hope that we can voice our concerns about problems without affecting trade and that we can still continue to work with each other and supply each other’s markets.”
Former trade negotiator and diplomat Charles Finny, a chief negotiator of the China-New Zealand free trade agreement in 2008, said that while GCSB Secretary Andrew Little’s statement about the hacking was unusually firm and sharp, he would be surprised if there were serious consequences. as a result.
“If we were the only country to criticize China in this space, I could see a vulnerability, but why would China want to take revenge on New Zealand when others are saying the exact same thing? So I think the fact that we’re in such a great company gives me some comfort.”
Federated Farmers national president and trade spokesman Andrew Hoggard also remained optimistic.
“I think to me it shows that we have an independent foreign policy. We call things as we see them, but I also hope we can keep politics and stuff out of the trade, especially the food trade.”
Beard said there was a lot at stake if the trade relationship deteriorated. China absorbed more than $19 billion in New Zealand exports in the 12 months to June last year.
“Our exporters do have options, they don’t have all their trade in one market. But China is a very valuable market for us and we would not like to see that change.”
The Chinese embassy in New Zealand calls the allegations of cyber criminals unfounded and irresponsible.
It has directly objected to the government, urging it to stop mud-slinging and renounce its Cold War mentality.
Little has declined interviews, a spokesperson says his statement was complete.