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China isn't retaliating, John Key says

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 8/08/2016

The government is satisfied China's action against Zespri's kiwifruit exports isn't part of a wider trade retaliation programme, Prime Minister John Key says.

Zespri on Friday temporarily halted exports to China after a risk notification was issued because four containers were found to carry a fruit-rotting fungus.

Exports will resume when pre-export checking protocols are in place.

Mr Key says it's "a technical issue" and isn't connected to reported threats of trade retaliation if New Zealand initiates an inquiry into the alleged dumping of cut-price Chinese steel.

Zespri has confirmed it was contacted about possible "repercussions" but it isn't known who made the call and the Chinese government has given assurances there won't be any retaliatory measures.

"Where there have been claims about reprisals we have sought assurances that wouldn't be the case, and we are comfortable these individual trade issues are literally that - individual trade issues, not part of a wider programme of retaliation against New Zealand," Mr Key said at his post-cabinet press conference on Monday.

"I think people should be careful about joining the dots - we certainly see this current issue with Zespri as a technical matter, it could have arisen at any time."

Mr Key says Zespri hasn't been stopped from sending kiwifruit to China, and he expects the issue will be quickly sorted out.

"They happen on both sides," he said.

"New Zealand sometimes stops products or demands more information ... it's not unique to China."

The fungus that was found isn't a risk to food safety.

"Zepsri's rigorous quality systems for checking and rechecking means this affects only a tiny fraction of the 135 million trays we're shipping this season," a company spokeswoman said on Friday.

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