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New Zealand is looking at the UK and the EU to market a market beyond China

New Zealand wants to ratify free trade with the UK and the EU this year in order to change its export markets amid growing tensions with China, the Pacific trade minister said.

But Damien O’Connor stressed that Wellington will continue to strengthen its trade relations with Beijing despite the “deterioration” that undermines relations between Australia and China.

“Every commercial country sees the need for a diversified market, especially in a country that is highly prone to disruptions, climate, political events or anything else,” he told the Financial Times.

“Obviously, China in Australia is an important market as well. Although we are concerned about the ongoing deterioration, we remain strong rather than strong between our two countries.”

China is the largest exporter to New Zealand, accounting for a shipment of NZ $ 19bn (US $ 13.5bn) annually by the end of March, a quarter of all its exports.

Wellington has managed to avoid a series of international disputes disrupted the Sino-Australian relationship for more than a year, which led Beijing to set prices for Australian wine and barley prices.

“We’re always on the lookout for differences [with China], which has been incredibly valuable, “O’Connor said, when asked how New Zealand has avoided this.

Wellington was the first developed country to sign a trade agreement with China in 2008, and in January they agreed to boost the deal to expand market opportunities.

However, Wellington quietly urged the trial of its trade relations to reduce reliance on China.

As part of the process, O’Connor met with Liz Truss, a UK trade secretary, in London on Thursday to speed up negotiations on a trade agreement with the UK. He later traveled to Brussels to discuss EU cooperation.

Truss has established itself in New Zealand as the next target in a post-Brexit trade agreement. An official of the Department of International Trade said the description was “the next big game in town”.

But UK officials have warned that progress will depend on the O’Connor and Truss meeting. “New Zealanders need to give us more in terms of sales, travel and employment if they want a partnership. They are slow to move away from these problems,” said a Whitehall official.

O’Connor said an agreement between New Zealand and the UK would likely be similar UK-Australia trade union, which were similarly matched this week. Reducing export taxes on New Zealand farms including milk, lamb and beef is a priority among Wellington, he said.

He also said that British farmers need not fear New Zealand exports. Most of its agricultural products are exported to Asia, the US and other markets while the volume of UK and EU was small. New Zealand retailers, however, can play a role in meeting domestic demand, he said.

The researchers said Wellington’s efforts to diversify its investors could help protect its assets in the event of a collapse with Beijing, even if there were a few economic setbacks.

“Diversity is always a question of safety,” says Rob Scollay, an assistant professor at the University of Auckland. “But I’m not sure. There is no political upheaval. There is a strong reason to stand out from China.”

New Zealand has been criticized by Australian politicians, academics and the media for their views good relationship and Beijing, who are accused of human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

Wellington has refused to extend the pardon of a five-state agreement, an internet connection that includes Australia, the UK, Canada and the US.

Last month, 60 minutes show notes so-called System vs Stability: Is China Capturing New Zealand? who criticized O’Connor for saying Australia should “follow us and respect” Beijing.

“Maybe when I look back I shouldn’t say that,” O’Connor said, adding that he maintained a good relationship with his Australian counterpart.

He also denied that Wellington had gone to China. “We speak when the need arises and we continue to create business opportunities where it is important for retailers and customers.”

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