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New Zealand Seeks to Restore China Relations After Dairy Recalls

August 22, 2013
 
 

New Zealand’s government will in 10 days notify Chinese authorities of measures it may take to address safety issues in order to restore trade.

William Bi and Liza Lin

New Zealand, whose exports are under threat after China halted imports of some tainted dairy products, pledged to take steps to ensure product safety and regain the confidence of its biggest trading partner.

New Zealand’s government will in 10 days notify Chinese authorities of measures it may take to address safety issues in order to restore trade, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said at a media briefing in Beijing today. The Pacific country will also require its exporters to meet China standards for its dairy products, he said.

McCully’s visit comes as New Zealand deals with the fallout from two contamination scares linked to dairy products in China, its top trading partner. Fonterra Cooperative Group Ltd., the world’s biggest dairy exporter and New Zealand’s largest company, said earlier this month botulism-causing bacteria were found in whey protein that made its way into the Chinese market. China also temporarily banned some New Zealand milk protein this week after finding elevated nitrate levels in certain products.

The New Zealand government will notify Chinese authorities on "what has happened here, what issues need to be addressed and to provide certainty to consumers that quality food from New Zealand can be relied upon," said McCully, who is on a two-day visit to Beijing as part of a tour of Mongolia, China and Hong Kong.

New Zealand is conducting inquiries into the Fonterra incident, the results of which will be released to the Chinese government in 10 days, the official said. The case didn’t have a significant impact on relations between the two countries, he said.

Dairy is New Zealand’s largest foreign exchange earner, accounting for 28 percent of overseas sales in an economy where exports make up about a third of output. China, which overtook Australia as the nation’s largest trade partner this year, bought NZ$7.7 billion ($6.1 billion) of New Zealand’s goods in the year through June, NZ$3 billion of which was dairy.

"We have a total and absolute commitment to meeting the standards which would be required for that trade to continue to grow," McCully said.

McCully, who was meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and State Councilor Yang Jiechi in Beijing, will be followed in a "few weeks or months" by trade minister Tim Groser and Prime Minister John Key, Key’s spokeswoman Kelly Boxall said on Aug. 11.

Dirty Pipe

New Zealand’s troubles began Aug. 3, when Fonterra said a dirty pipe at a processing plant may have tainted whey protein used in dairy formula with bacteria that can cause botulism, a rare illness that may lead to paralysis. China then stopped imports of whey protein and a dairy base powder from Fonterra.

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