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Key in China for four-day visit

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 17/04/2016

Prime Minister John Key has just started a visit to China where he's aiming to get a better deal for New Zealand's exports and seek support for Helen Clark's bid to be the next UN secretary-general.

Mr Key will be in China for four days, leading a trade delegation, and he'll be meeting President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

"One of the big things we want to talk about is allowing more of our products into China tariff-free," he said before he left.

"The free-trade agreement has been spectacularly successful, but it does limit some of our products - I can't say how far we'll get with that but I'm confident that over time we'll have a better FTA."

Mr Key will raise Miss Clark's candidacy during his formal meetings with China's leaders.

China is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which will have a vital role in choosing the next secretary-general.

"I will be reaffirming not only her credentials but her strong commitment to China and the role that she played in the signing of the FTA," Mr Key said.

He's also going to raise the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, which the US is involved in.

That could be tricky.

China's state news agency Xinhua has warned Mr Key to stay away from the subject.

In an editorial published at the weekend, Xinhua said New Zealand shouldn't take sides and shouldn't allow itself to be "hijacked by the ambitions of its military allies".

Acting Prime Minister Bill English on Monday played down the issue.

"New Zealand doesn't see itself as playing a significant role in sorting that out," he told TV3's Paul Henry show.

"It's not on our doorstep, we're not in the middle of the complexities, we just want to see them sort out their differences."

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