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New Zealand’s opposition leader, Judith Collins, slammed the US and UK over China, saying that their failure to adopt free-trade agreements was “foolish” and increased Beijing’s dominance in the Indo-Pacific. In an interview with the Guardian, Collins, who is the leader of the centre-right National Party, said that if any criticism comes to New Zealand about the close relationship with China and trade, “my answer to everybody – whether they’re the US or UK – is: ‘So where’s our free trade agreement?’”
Collins said that the United States had been “foolish” to walk away from the free-trade agreements, referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and its replacement – the CPTPP. She added that the US, instead, opened up gates for China to be even more important in the Pacific and Indo-Pacific region. Collins said that Washington “left the door open” for China and they were “ultimately foolish” to do so. “And that has actually caused the issue,” she added.
China-New Zealand relations
It is worth mentioning that China is New Zealand’s largest trading partner by a substantial margin and it accounts for about a third of total exports. According to the New Zealand-China Council, exports to China last year were around $16.7 billion more than NZ’s trade with Australia, the US and Japan combined. New Zealand’s trade with China has now led to the speculation that Wellington is unable to take a tough stance on Beijing.
Meanwhile, the Jacinda Ardern administration has been making case-by-case statements on human rights violations, encroachment in Hong Kong or the South China Sea. However, it has been avoiding strongly stated condemnation coming from the US or Australia. Earlier this year, New Zealand, along with Australia, welcomed coordinated sanctions announced by the UK, US, EU and Canada over Uyghur abuses, but it did not institute sanctions of its own. New Zealand even shied away from using the word “genocide” in a motion on Xinjiang debated. Instead, it used a more general, watered-down language of “human rights abuses”.