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NZ mulls ‘One Belt’ exit; questions China's influence in the Pacific

Winston Peters
Foreign Minister Winston Peters flags a stronger New Zealand Pacific aid policy

STAFF REPORTER | Television New Zealand/Pacific Media Watch

AUCKLAND - New Zealand's Foreign Minister Winston Peters has again hinted the Ardern government may exit China's One Belt One Road initiative as Wellington "resets" its strategic focus to the Pacific.

Mr Peters told Television New Zealand’s Q & A show the Pacific was where New Zealand mattered and could do most.

But, alluding to China's influence, he said a number of countries had been intervening in the Pacific in ways that were "not helpful".

"Our job is to ensure that the engagement of other countries in the Pacific is for the interests of the Pacific and the security and prosperity of the neighbourhood," he said.

Mr Peters said the previous government had been too hasty to sign up to China's One Belt One Road initiative, with the implications for New Zealand unclear.

His coalition government would instead move slower in relation to the deal.

"It's a case of shifting the dial, it's a case of having our eyes wide open, it's a Pacific reset in circumstances where we must do far better," he said.

"Our aid, for example, is on the decline, to go down to 0.21% (of gross domestic product) from 0.3% just eight years ago."

He said low aid levels from New Zealand would not "stack up against countries with a big cheque book", who were not always acting in the Pacific's interest.

Fresh from a diplomatic trip to meet Malcolm Turnbull in Australia, prime minister Ardern has begun the first leg of her first Pacific mission.

Ms Ardern and a team of politicians, representatives from charities and Pasifika community leaders are travelling to Samoa, Tonga, Niue and the Cook Islands engaging in diplomacy and taking in the local hospitality.

Ms Ardern on Friday said there was a range of issues facing the Pacific, including climate change, resource use and globalisation.

New Zealand and Australia's role was to "amplify the voice of our Pacific neighbours and do so in partnership with them", she said.

Comments

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Johnny Blades

Peters had a pretty good rapport with Pacific Islands communities the last time he was Foreign Minister.

It appears he listens to people.

Daniel Kumbon

Winston Peters came to Sir Tei Secondary School once with then PNG's Foreign Minister Sam Abal and told students and parents with no hesitation at all that tribal warfare was bad and Engans should learn to live in peace.

If he was concerned with local issues of a province in PNG, I believe Peters has genuine and real concern for what happens in the Pacific region in terms of safety and its prosperity.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Malcolm could get her to check out some more dumping grounds for our refugees while she's there.

New Zealand leads and Australia dithers.

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