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PM's China talk with Trump 'interesting'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/02/2017

Prime Minister Bill English doesn't feel short changed that he only got to speak to US President Donald Trump for just 15 minutes in their first official phone call.

While Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull was scheduled to have an hour and was cut off after 25 minutes, Mr English revealed he is happy with their brief chat when he was in the back seat of a car between Waitangi Day events on Monday.

"This is someone who communicates pretty directly, doesn't bother with all the diplomatic niceties so you can cover a lot of ground in the time we had," he said on his return to parliament on Tuesday.

That ground included trade and China but Mr English won't be going into details on what they talked about.

"We had a general discussion about China. I'm not going to go into detail about that but it was an interesting discussion," he said.

The briefness of the call did mean more contentious issues like protectionism, climate change and the Paris Agreement and New Zealand's nuclear ban were sidestepped.

The US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Mr English described on Tuesday as a "setback for trade" didn't come up either.

"The US has often made decisions that don't suit us but we've got a pretty fundamentally close relationship there and we want to build off that, take what opportunities we can and do our best to keep them engaged in the Asia-Pacific because they're a stabilising influence and a strong economy," he said.

Mr English said Mr Trump was aware that the New Zealand economy was doing well but added there was an "idealised version" of New Zealand in the US.

"They tend to see us as a it of a have from all the pressures they are dealing with," he said.

The PM is not anticipating another call anytime soon, believing further communications will be between officials and cabinet appointments.

New US Defence Secretary James Mattis has already been in touch with Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee, while security advisers have also been in contact, he said.

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