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TPP - China wants in, says its man in Wellington

New Zealand had largely got itself out of the 2008 global financial crisis because of its growing trade with China, the country's political counsellor in Wellington, Cheng Lei, told TV3’s The Nation.

Asked how China then regarded the opposition to its companies investing here, he said that both countries wanted to develop their economy and that the “fruitful” economic relationship with China was "an open secret that I think many New Zealanders have acknowledged, whether they agree with the Chinese investment or not. That’s the simple fact”.

Mr Cheng was recently in the news after making a veiled threat, on the eve of the Crafar Farms sale decision that future Chinese investment in New Zealand, and Fonterra's access to the Chinese market, hinged on the outcome.

Now, the counsellor says China is looking at joining the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

His country was “actively studying the relevant clauses of the TPP and actively studying and I don’t want to exclude the possibility of China's entry into this kind of arrangement in the future“.

The TPP is a nine-nation trade agreement being negotiated by countries including New Zealand, the United States, Australia and Chile, with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan among a list of nations proposing to join.

Among Pacific countries, China has been the notable exclusion.

But Mr Cheng described his country’s absence as ironic.

“To be honest, any kind of Free Trade Agreement arrangement in Asia Pacific region would be simply incomplete with the exclusion of China,” he said.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully told the programme he thought there was a question in China’s mind as to whether they would be asked to join the agreement.

"I've made it very clear publically that it's not a matter of an invitation to join the TPP,” he said.

“Anyone who can meet the high standards can apply.

“I would certainly welcome China's interests in the TPP.

“It is going to be a comprehensive and high-quality agreement, and some might say that’s a test that’s too tough for China.

"But then some also would have said that China would never complete a comprehensive and high-quality Free Trade Agreement with a developed nation like New Zealand, and together we proved that wrong as well.

“So I say the door is open.”

Goff opposes farm sales to China
But on the same programme, Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesman Phil Goff said while his party welcomed foreign investment in New Zealand it remained opposed to farmland sales to China.

“We don’t buy their farmland they don’t sell their farmland,” he said.

“It's wrong e to argue that we're discriminating against China.

“China doesn’t sell land, therefore that’s excluded from our ability to invest in their country.

“There's nothing wrong with countries saying we welcome foreign investment but there are certain areas that we will exclude.

“Farmland, traditionally, has been one of those, and there's not much benefit for New Zealand, that is expert in farming, to have others invest in our farmland.

"It just forces up the price of land and makes it harder for New Zealanders to get on to the land.”