A general view of an Australian flag is seen outside the Great Hall of the People on April 9, 2013 in Beijing, China.
Feng Li | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – Nationalism is not the way to go in diplomatic relations, the New Zealand trade minister told CNBC when calling for more multilateral trade and relations around the world.
In fact, the world needs to build its “overall security” – especially now during the Covid-19 pandemic, Damien O’Connor told Squawk Box Asia on Wednesday as part of CNBC’s coverage Davos Agenda of the World Economic Forum.
“Nationalism is not the way to go – we hope to develop multilateral trade and diplomatic ties around the world and play our part,” added O’Connor, who is also the country’s agriculture minister.
In recent years, protectionism and nationalism have come to the fore as countries like the US and some in Europe focus mostly on their domestic economies and problems, sometimes at the expense of working and collaborating with others.
Experts have dubbed the strained US-China relationship the new “Cold War” as tension spread from the trade front to technology and other areas.
They have also warned that the coronavirus pandemic will spark more protectionist policies among countries as they seek to limit the economic damage caused by the virus.
New Zealand on Tuesday signed a trade agreement with ChinaThis gives kiwi exports better access to the Asian economic giant. The deal paves the way for the removal or reduction of tariffs on many New Zealand goods, from dairy and seafood to wood.
Offer to convey
The deal comes at a time when China is still embroiled in tense trade tensions with countries like Australia and the US.
At the time, O’Connor noted, “It sends a really clear signal to the world that China and we, of course, support trade deals that are robust … that are backed by good laws.”
Relations between China and Australia have deteriorated since last year Canberra supported an international investigation into China’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, Beijing has been targeting a growing list of imported products from Down Under for months – tariffs on wine and barley, and suspension of beef imports.
New Zealand has offered to broker a ceasefire between the two countriesAccording to Reuters, this year’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit could be an opportunity for New Zealand to bring both parties to the table.
Commenting on the New Zealand mediation offer, O’Connor said, “We have a mature … relationship with China and we have always had troubling questions.”
“I cannot speak for Australia and the way it maintains its diplomatic relations, but of course if you follow us and … from time to time … speak a little more diplomacy and be careful with the wording be … hopefully (she) can be in a similar situation, “he said
Australian treasurer Josh Frydenberg told CNBC on Monday that he would continue to advocate his national interests but would like tense relations with China to improve.