12 Feb 2019

Govt needs to sort out relationship with China - National

1:10 pm on 12 February 2019

The National Party says it looks like New Zealand's relationship with China is deteriorating and the government needs to get its act together quickly to sort it out.

Jacinda Ardern speaks to media after her first major speech of the year to a business audience at a central city hotel in Auckland.

Jacinda Ardern speaks to media after her first major speech of the year to a business audience at a central city hotel in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

An opening ceremony planned for the 2019 China-New Zealand Year of Tourism has been postponed after China advised that there were changes to schedule on the Chinese side.

MBIE officials are working with China to try to reschedule the official opening.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said the Chinese let the government know a few weeks ago that there was a scheduling issue, and the event would happen eventually.

"It's going to happen, it's just a matter of when [officials] can coordinate the schedule."

But National Party trade spokesperson Todd McClay said the event had been planned for more than two years.

"New Zealand businesses have put a lot of money and effort into make sure it will be successful, it's a very concerning signal I think."

Mr McClay said the Tourism Minister should be on the next plane to China to go and sort it out.

"Tourism is very important to New Zealand, but so is trade and our international relationship - I think that it's very concerning that Jacinda Ardern is the first elected Prime Minister not to visit China within the first year in office since before Robert Muldoon, that in itself speaks volumes."

Ms Ardern said a number of senior Ministers had been to China, including the Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

"We've had six ministers visit China, we've had visits here, and so some of that has not been discussed and yet those exchanges continue, our exports continue and tourism continues."

Ms Ardern said she had a standing invitation to visit China, but so far the two leaders had not been able to find a suitable date.