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New Zealand urges Australia to 'show respect' to China

 A senior New Zealand minister on Thursday advised Australia to take his country's soft and gentle approach to China, a rare public disagreement among neighbors on how to deal with a more assertive Beijing.

The comments, echoing Chinese government complaints, are likely to enrage Canberra, while exposing different approaches to China by New Zealand and its "Five Eyes" intelligence partners Australia, United States, Canada. and Great Britain.

Noting Wellington's recent success in trade talks with China, Trade Minister Damien O'Connor urged Australia to show more "respect" to Beijing.

New Zealand urges Australia to 'show respect' to China

"I can't speak for Australia and the way they handle their diplomatic relations, but clearly if they followed us and showed respect, I suppose a little more diplomacy every now and then and being cautious with the wording then they too could wait. in a similar situation, "he said.

The Australian Foreign Office did not respond to a request for comment on O'Connor's advice.

New Zealand's cautious approach has been reflected in its reluctance to sign joint statements by Five Eyes partners criticizing China's crackdown on the Hong Kong democracy movement, including recent arrests of activists in the city.

New Zealand officials have also been careful not to directly question China's growing influence in the Pacific, unlike their American and Australian counterparts.

Critics say Wellington's policy in China places economic gain above democratic values, something the New Zealand government has denied.

"We've always been able to raise issues of concern," O'Connor told CNBC on Wednesday in the wake of a free trade update that took more than four years to negotiate.

O'Connor said the new agreement would further reduce tariffs on New Zealand products entering China, its largest market with two-way trade of NZ $ 32 billion ($ 22.8 billion) a year.

In contrast, China has imposed punitive levies on more than a dozen Australian imports, including wine and barley, as relations deteriorate.

Irritants for Beijing include Australia's call for an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and a ban on Chinese tech giant Huawei from the country's 5G network.

The Chinese state newspaper Global Times said Wednesday that New Zealand and Australia's approaches to Beijing were "fire and ice," accusing Canberra of having "a jingoistic Cold War mentality" while New Zealand was "relatively open to ascent. from China".

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