19 Apr 2016

Alibaba to smooth imports to China

1:03 pm on 19 April 2016

China's richest man wants to help more New Zealand farmers and small businesses sell their products there.

Prime Minister John Key meets with China's richest man Jack Ma.

Prime Minister John Key meets with China's richest man Jack Ma. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Jack Ma, who founded China's biggest online retailer Alibaba, has signed a deal with the government to give more New Zealand goods access to key online sites in China.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Prime Minister John Key at a China Entrepreneur Club leaders meeting in Beijing.

Mr Ma has a net worth of about $50 billion, amassed from his numerous online retailers, including Alibaba, Aliexpress, Alitrip and T-Mall.

He said New Zealand's wonderful small businesses had good products but they did not know how to sell into China.

Under the agreement, Alibaba would provide support for New Zealand companies to enter the Chinese consumer market through its various e-commerce channels.

Trade Minister Todd McClay said it would involve matching New Zealand products with Chinese businesses that already sold successfully on Alibaba.

"Some of those direct-to-market opportunities will be increased," Mr McClay said.

Mr Ma said he would be sending staff to New Zealand to check out products for his companies and would set up a business embassy.

He said China had a lot to learn from New Zealand in terms of food safety, sustainability and environmental protection.

John Key meeting Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of China in Beijing.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key shakes China's Premier Li Keqiang's hand as he is welcomed to the country. He was set to meet with President Xi Jinping to discuss furthering the free trade agreement between the two countries. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

Mr Ma was also interested in buying land in New Zealand.

"I just don't have time to go there seeing the property myself. I see so many friends buy great properties. But this is the dream land."

Mr Key and Mr Ma held a joint Q&A session at the club meeting.

In response to one question, Mr Key sought to reassure the business leaders New Zealand was open for investment.

"Firstly, you are welcome in New Zealand from an investment perspective.

"We're a fast-growing economy, we want to develop great international relationships and we also want to have a higher standard of living. We fundamentally don't have enough private-sector capital of our own to fund that growth."

He said the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) was seeking to streamline and speed up its processes over major foreign investment proposals.

On Monday night Mr Key was officially welcomed to Beijing by the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

John Key meeting Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of China in Beijing.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key meets with Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of China in Beijing. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

The ceremony featured a gun salute and military band and ended with talks between the two leaders.

Mr Key will meet the Chinese President on Tuesday, to progress talks on an upgrade to the China-New Zealand free trade agreement.

A senior official from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke to media, through a translator after the meeting. He said closer trade ties were discussed.

"The Chinese leader has talked about the huge and enormous progress that has been achieved since China and New Zealand signed the FTA, since it was entered into force, and also mentioned how much progress and potential our two countries still have to tap," the translator said.

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