WELLINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - New Zealand’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that China’s investment in the Pacific was creating economic vulnerabilities and she called for partnerships that would bolster resilience as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.
Nanaia Mahuta, outlining New Zealand’s approach in the Pacific, said the region was becoming increasingly strategic for big powers that were exercising their influence and pursuing their interests.
“It is a concern in terms of the way in which investments in the Pacific is occurring and creating quite a significant level of economic vulnerability and debt,” Mahuta said when asked about China’s growing influence in the region after her speech at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs.
“That’s an area that creates its own complexities,” she said.
Mahuta said New Zealand offers partnerships that could strengthens the region’s resilience, especially as the world recovers from the economic impact of COVID-19.
Her speech at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs focused on the government’s “Pacific Reset” that links New Zealand’s future to a safe, secure and prosperous Pacific.
Mahuta said New Zealand’s relationship with China was one that was respectful, predictable and consistent, but recognised the assertion of China within the Indo-Pacific region.
“We are very clear around things we can work together on, and we are increasingly becoming very clear about the things we do not and cannot agree on, much of which was in the human rights space,” Mahuta said.
New Zealand’s parliament in May declared that severe human rights abuses were taking place against Uyghur people in China’s Xinjiang region. Chinese embassy criticised the declaration as interference in internal affairs.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said differences between New Zealand and its top trading partner were becoming harder to reconcile.
Reporting by Praveen Menon Editing by Robert Birsel