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Key to express regret to Chinese V-P over protest

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
John Key
John Key

By Kate Chapman of NZPA

Seoul, July 7 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key said he would not apologise to Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping when they meet later today, but would express regret over the protest by Green Party co-leader Russel Norman when Mr Xi was in New Zealand.

Dr Norman was involved in a scuffle on the forecourt of Parliament last month while he was holding up a Tibetan flag when Mr Xi tried to enter the building.

Speaker Lockwood Smith investigated and said while there was no question MPs had a right to protest he was concerned about Dr Norman's behaviour impeding others.

Mr Key said he would raise the issue with Mr Xi today and advise him of the review carried out by Dr Smith.

Mr Key talked to Mr Xi about the incident over the phone at the time.

"I think that New Zealand security let him (Mr Xi) down and I think that there needs to be changes to the protocols for visiting VIPs in New Zealand and the Speaker agrees with the position," Mr Key said.

"I really don't think that we should be inviting people to New Zealand at that level of seniority and then not showing them the respect that they can enter and exit a building."

It was important to tell Mr Xi that things would be different in the future, Mr Key said.

"We'll be giving him an update of the situation and giving him some reassurance that if he comes back in the future we won't see a repeat of that particular incident."

However, Mr Key said he would not apologise for New Zealanders' right to protest.

Mr Key arrives in Beijing today following a three-day trip to South Korea.

He will meet with Premier Wen Jiabao and then Mr Xi later today.

Two years on from New Zealand signing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China that country has gone from being our fourth to second largest market.

Mr Key said there was still more potential.

He said he would talk to Mr Wen about how to grow the relationship even further and expand on the $10 billion two-way trade between the countries.

Later today he will attend the signing of the cooperation agreement on food safety and beef quality between two New Zealand companies and a Chinese one.

The agreement will see Chinese Kerchin Cattle Industrial Ltd using Te Mania Livestock's angus breeding technology and FoodCap International's cold chain packing and product monitoring system technology.

It aims to boost Kerchin's food safety integrity to give it an edge over United States and European beef.

"Last year when we sat down with them one of the things we agreed to help China was lifting its food safety standards and we'll be reporting back on that," Mr Key said.

He also said he would be "talking about pandas" with the Chinese leaders.

Mr Key has said he wants to bring two endangered Chinese pandas to zoos in New Zealand.

However, the pandas are in hot demand and can be costly, Mr Key wants to do a deal, possibly trading two kiwis.

The main focus of his South Korean trip was progressing an FTA.

He said the trip had been a success and an FTA was "within touching distance".

Zespri chairman John Loughlin said an FTA would save kiwifruit growers $34 million.

Mr Loughlin said Korea's tariff on kiwifruit was the highest in the world at 45 percent.

Chile, Zespri's main competitor for South Korean kiwifruit sales, already has an FTA with South Korea.

Chilean kiwifruit growers pay a 16.5 percent tariff which declines by 4 percent a year until it reaches zero in 2014.

"An FTA with Korea will allow us to compete on a level playing field and win the market based on our premium quality fruit," Mr Loughlin said.

Tomorrow, Mr Key travels to Shanghai tomorrow to visit the New Zealand pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai. He will also travel to Vietnam before returning to New Zealand next Tuesday.

(Kate Chapman travelled to South Korea with the help of funding from the Asia New Zealand Foundation)

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