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SYDNEY – New Zealand’s trade minister said Thursday he does not expect Chinese economic retaliation to increasing tensions over claims of Chinese cyberhacking. China this week called on New Zealand to “abandon [its] Cold War mentality” after New Zealand’s government criticized Beijing for supporting hacking following a cyberattack on tech giant Microsoft.
New Zealand authorities said Monday they had uncovered evidence of Chinese state-sponsored cyberattacks in New Zealand. Government officials said the Government Communications Security Bureau had established links between a group supported by Beijing called the Advanced Persistent Threat 40 and malicious cyber activity in New Zealand.
Monday, the United States and other Western countries, including New Zealand and Australia, accused China of hacking Microsoft Exchange, an email service used by companies around the world. New Zealand said such interference undermined global stability and security.
China reacted angrily. Its embassy in Wellington issued a statement Tuesday calling the hacking allegations “totally groundless and irresponsible.” It urged New Zealand to “abandon the Cold War mentality.”
Business leaders in New Zealand are increasingly concerned that political tensions will affect lucrative China trade ties.
However, trade minister Damien O’Connor told Radio New Zealand on Thursday he wasn’t expecting economic retaliation.
“It’s a security issue, it’s not a trade issue,” he said. “We have no reason to believe that there should be any reaction. If you are a small business, a big business or you are a country and you have a huge reliance on any one market, then that exposes you, and that is why we are building trade agreements and trade connections with a whole range of markets, so that our exporters and importers can have a range of options.”
New Zealand, a country of 5 million people, is heavily reliant on China, its biggest trading partner.
Two-way trade is worth more than $23 billion. Dairy and meat are key New Zealand exports to China, while coming the other way are electronics and machinery, which are significant imports.
New Zealand relies on global trade. It was one of the first countries to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a key regional accord. It was the first nation to secure a free trade agreement with Hong Kong.
New Zealand is also part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group, along with the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia.