A former trade minister is warning the government that offending China could jeopardise free trade negotiations.
China has urged New Zealand to "correct its wrong words" in relation to the defence strategy released by the government last week, which criticised China's push on disputed territorial claims.
National Party trade spokesperson Todd McClay told Morning Report this could cost New Zealand.
"We have $30 billion worth of two-way trade with China, we're currently upgrading our free trade agreement with them, and I have to say things that surprise any of our trading partners will make it more difficult for those negotiations and could make it much more difficult for those buying and selling with China."
Mr McClay said the government needed to clarify its thinking on China and raise any problems face-to-face with their Chinese counterparts in the first instance.
"The one thing that is likely to harm the relationship that New Zealand does have with China is uncertainty, and them having to second guess exactly what they mean."