New Zealand minister says Australia should 'show respect' to China

Australian officials found the remarks unhelpful.

Julia Yeo | January 28, 2021, 07:32 PM

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New Zealand's trade minister made a suggestion for the country's ally and neighbour Australia to "follow" its lead and "show respect" to China, to mend its diplomatic ties with the Asian giant.

NZ minister says Australia should follow their example, show 'respect'

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor noted in an interview with CNBC that New Zealand had been maintaining cordial ties with the Chinese government, after signing a trade agreement with Beijing.

In comparison, Australia's relationship with China has soured of late with trade tensions on a high, after Australia called for an independent probe into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I can’t speak for Australia and the way it runs its diplomatic relationships but clearly if they were to follow us and show respect, I guess a little more diplomacy from time to time, and be cautious with wording then they, too, hopefully could be in a similar situation," O'Connor told CNBC on Jan. 27.

Aussie officials found O'Connor's remarks unhelpful

In response to the Kiwi minister's remarks, Australian officials found his advice unhelpful, reported Australian media outlets, including The Sydney Morning Herald.

According to The Guardian, O'Connor spoke to the Australian trade minister, Dan Tehan, on Jan. 28, in attempt to ease tensions.

O'Connor said that Australia and China's relations will always remain a matter for the two countries strictly.

"I’ve spoken with my Australian counterpart earlier today to reiterate, as I said in the interview, that we do not speak for Australia on this or any other matter," the Kiwi trade minister said.

Tehan remarked in a statement on Jan. 28 that Australia’s relationship with China was "based on an assessment of our national interests", and that Australia has always been open to dialogue with China to resolve their differences.

Tense relations between Australia and China

Australia and China's relations have been steadily deteriorating in recent years, especially since Australia called for an independent probe into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, China banned the import of Australian beef days before Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was expected to call for the probe at the World Health Organisation (WHO) assembly.

In Nov. 2020, Chinese government official Zhao Lijian posted a doctored image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to the throat of an Afghan child on Twitter, prompting Australia to condemn the move, further escalating tensions.

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