16 Apr 2009

NZ asked to help with China food safety standards

5:12 pm on 16 April 2009

China wants New Zealand's help in developing food safety standards, Premier Wen Jiabao has told Prime Minister John Key at a meeting in Beijing.

The leaders discussed tourism, regional security and economic matters, but talks on agriculture and the dairy sector took up much of the 50-minute meeting.

John Key says Premier Wen considers last year's contaminated milk scandal a one-off incident that can be put behind both countries.

Mr Key says he was told Chinese farmers are under pressure as domestic consumption has fallen away over food safety concerns. He says China wants New Zealand to work with Chinese farmers and authorities to help deliver safer food standards.

On the crisis in Fiji, Mr Key said the premier told him China attaches importance to the New Zealand's role in the Pacific and hoped Fiji would take note of the interests of countries such as New Zealand to resolve their issues.

The Prime Minister said China gives aid to Fiji, so there is a risk that if Australia and New Zealand take aid away from Fiji, then China will step in and fill the gap.

Mr Key said he welcomed China's aid to the Pacific but that it would be useful to work collaboratively to ensure the best outcomes for such aid.

In an earlier meeting, Mr Key said that President Hu Jintao had reiterated the importance of free trade to him, giving no sign of any extra protectionism coming in because of worsening global economic conditions.

New Zealand signed a free-trade agreement with China on 7 April 2008, the first developed country to do so.