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NZ paving a spot on China's Silk Road

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 15/05/2017 Lisa Martin

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While Australia ties itself in knots over whether to sign up to China's new Silk Road plan, New Zealand is charging ahead without hesitation.

NZ Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith has been in Beijing for the Chinese government's One Belt One Road forum.

The Kiwis signed up to be a part of the scheme during Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's official visit in March, while Australia held out.

It's a grand infrastructure building bonanza on land and across oceans linking parts of Asia, Eurasia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe aimed at boosting trade, economic growth and cutting transit time for goods.

There's $US1.3 trillion ($A1.8 trillion) worth of projects already in the pipeline.

Mr Goldsmith flagged over the next 18 months both China and NZ would draw up a work program.

There's some speculation China Rail could be granted a contract to build a 22-kilometre stretch of highway and rail corridor from Whangarei to a port at Marsden Point in Northland as part of One Belt One Road.

But Mr Goldsmith declined to discuss specific projects, saying talks were still in progress.

He said NZ architecture firms and consulting groups were keen to explore opportunities.

Mr Goldsmith was diplomatic when it came to Australia's reluctance to sign on.

"Each country has to work out where they fit," he said in Beijing.

"It's not a competition... I wouldn't like to comment on our Australian friends."

But he pointed out NZ was the first developed country to have a free trade agreement with China and is now the first to be doing an upgrade of the deal.

Chinese investment in property, agricultural land and major public assets has been a hot-button issue in Australia in recent years.

Australian Trade Minister Steve Ciobo was also at the summit and sees merit in China's grand scheme but it still cautious.

Mr Ciobo said there were "complementarities" between the federal government's plans to develop northern Australia and the One Belt One Road initiative but he emphasised they were "separate".

* Lisa Martin travelled to Beijing as a guest of the Chinese Embassy in Canberra.

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