Morrison in New Zealand for talks amid differences over China | News from Australia

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The Australian Prime Minister arrives in New Zealand for face-to-face talks with Jacinda Ardern.

Leaders in Australia and New Zealand will hold their first face-to-face talks since the coronavirus pandemic began, with China’s growing regional influence and Canberra’s controversial deportation policy being the first.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison touched down in the New Zealand town of Queenstown to visit on Sunday night, greeting his counterpart Jacinda Ardern with a traditional Maori mushroom, in which the couple pressed their noses.

Morrison is the first world leader to visit New Zealand since the two countries closed their borders last year to contain the virus.

Neighbors opened a quarantined travel bubble last month, although a recent outbreak of the virus in Melbourne has caused New Zealand to suspend the travel bubble with the Australian state of Victoria.

Dennis Shanahan, national editor of the Australian newspaper, said China’s growing influence in the region was the main topic of talks.

“The issue has been forced on Australian and New Zealand leaders by the fact that China’s influence and interference in the region has grown. But there are clear differences between the Australian and New Zealand sides on the attitude to be taken towards China. “he said from Canberra.

Australia’s relationship with China has deteriorated significantly over the past year, with Beijing blocking some Australian exports after Canberra excluded China-based telecommunications company Huawei from the 5G phone network. would call for independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus.

Australia has taken action by China to ban its barley exports to the World Trade Organization, which on Friday said it would set up a dispute resolution panel to examine the row.

New Zealand, on the other hand, has taken a more complacent approach with China as the two countries updated their free trade agreement earlier this year and the New Zealand Minister of Commerce suggested to the Morrison government that show China more “respect” for similar benefits.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s top diplomat also said last month that Wellington was “uncomfortable” in expanding the role of the Five Eyes, a post-war intelligence group that also includes Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. United States. The comment sparked speculation that New Zealand did not support the group’s recent criticism of Beijing.

“New Zealand has been much less affected by Chinese pressure than Australia and is therefore much more likely to call on Australia to take a softer line towards China,” Shanahan said.

“But the vision in Australia is that we can’t afford to do that, and the Australian government doesn’t want a gap to appear between Australia and New Zealand because of Chinese pressure,” he added.

Canberra’s policy of deporting foreigners convicted of crimes, even if they have lived all over Australia in Australia, also has a big echo of the talks.

The policy, which Australian Home Secretary Peter Dutton has described as “taking out the rubbish”, has disproportionately affected New Zealand. In recent years, Australia has deported hundreds of people to the neighboring country, including a 15-year-old boy in March.

Shanahan said an Australian compromise on the issue of deportation could help it gain New Zealand support for its complaint against China at the WTO.

But despite the multiple areas of friction, both leaders have promoted their bilateral bond ahead of talks.

Ardern said earlier this month that the relationship with Australia was “closest and most important” to New Zealand, while Morrison said: “Australia and New Zealand are family; we share deep historical ties of friendship, trust and spirit Anzac “.

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