The Chinese embassy has summoned New Zealand foreign officials to a meeting after the government criticized state-funded hacking, raising industry concerns about trade implications.
The meeting came after the embassy issued a statement on Tuesday saying that the allegations made by New Zealand spy agency minister Andrew Little were “totally baseless and irresponsible”.
The statement said such allegations must be supported by clear evidence, and to do so without was malicious slander.
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“We urge New Zealand to let go of the Cold War mentality, adopt a professional and responsible attitude when dealing with cyber incidents, and work with others to jointly address the challenge through dialogue and collaboration, rather than manipulating political issues under the guise of cybersecurity incidents, security and mud-slinging at others.”
National leader Judith Collins had warned New Zealand on Wednesday morning to brace for a backlash.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, the office of Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said officials had met with representatives of the embassy at their request.
“Disputes need not define our relationship, but we will continue to promote the things we believe in and continue to support the international rules-based system,” she said.
“Our relationship with China is one of our most important and impacts a wide range of sectors and groups in Aotearoa, New Zealand.”
New Zealand exporters were concerned that the escalation of the rhetoric could lead to a trade backlash from China, and are urging both countries to keep trade and politics separate.
The chairman of the New Zealand China Council, Sir Don McKinnon, said the country needed to be prepared after he called on China.
“Once you get to a stage where you feel you have to criticize China publicly – which has happened recently – it escalates to a new level, and you have to be prepared for the consequences,” he said.
“Trade with China means money in the pockets of people in New Zealand, from one end of the country to the other.”
Mckinnon, who is also a former New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, said it was a natural commercial decision, taking advantage of a good opportunity but part of the fragility of New Zealand’s trade with China. came down to individual exporters and companies.
“They have to make the ultimate judgment about how vulnerable they want to be to get the nature of what they’re producing,” he said.
“Let’s accept that the consumption of dairy products and red meat in China has grown tremendously over the past 20 years.
“They might look back in a few years and say ‘well, we were pretty smart’, on the other hand they might look back and say ‘well, we might be wrong for a while’.”
Robert Scollay, a lecturer in economics at the University of Auckland, said it is up to such companies to assess risk, but the government also has a large and difficult role to play in managing the trade relationship.
“The big players don’t necessarily always act in a reasonable way, so navigating those tensions is actually a really big job for the government and you have to rely on them to manage that extremely competently and carefully.”
“In general, I think they should avoid taking actions that could be seen as taking unnecessary sides.”
He questioned the government’s pro-US move to show support for a “rules-based Indo-Pacific”, following Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s and US President Joe Biden’s phone call ahead of the APEC Covid-19 leaders’ meeting.
“I just wonder if that makes sense in the circumstances.”
Mckinnon was more hopeful, saying he saw no signs of real retaliation yet.
“The consumer market in China is not going to change and yes, there may be a bump – but just wait and see.
“The most important thing is that New Zealand’s policy in general with China must always be straightforward, transparent, open and fair. If you deviate from that, you will have bigger problems.”
He said the government’s role was to create the environment for producers, manufacturers and service providers to maximize their returns, and that there were other options to explore, including trade deals with the EU and the UK, however difficult they may be. can be reached.
“Obviously we have to work very, very hard to get good deals, even with the UK.”
Meat Industry Association CEO Sirma Karapeeva said such agreements would be very valuable to producers.
“We are hopeful that the government can close those free trade agreements with both economies sooner rather than later, because that certainly opens up more opportunities and more channels.”
Although China was a very large trading partner, the industry exported to more than 110 countries around the world and had the ability to move products from one market to another.
“The impact would be to find other markets that match the economic returns that China currently offers our companies,” she said.
She was also positive about its relationship with China, saying New Zealand’s thoughtful and predictable approach to its relationship with China helped prevent tensions in one area from spilling over into another.
“It’s an appropriate way to manage various tensions in the multifaceted relationship we have.”