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Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to visit New Zealand


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to visit New Zealand

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra
Photo: Reuters/Mick Tsikas

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will host her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in Queenstown today for their annual two-day bilateral meeting.

Trans-Tasman relations have been strained in recent years, especially over the former’s hard-line deportation policy. However, more pertinent is divergence over China. Unlike Wellington, Canberra, currently engaged in an unprecedented trade war with China, has increasingly adopted a belligerent approach to China via the Five-Eyes security network—an intelligence-sharing group comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US and the UK.

Today’s meeting will not resolve these differences. The problem is that the Five-Eye’s statements are too belligerent for Wellington’s liking. This suits Australia’s confrontational approach but not Wellington’s quieter line on China—which accounts for 25% of New Zealand’s export market. Australia provides 60% of China’s iron ore imports and this leverage pays for Canberra’s aggressive approach. However, Wellington is more vulnerable to Beijing trade boycotts because, unlike Australia’s Iron Ore, China has alternatives to New Zealand’s dairy products.

New Zealand’s preference for Trans-Tasman joint-statements on China likely assuages Canberra for now. However, should Sino-Australian relations deteriorate further, Five-Eye’s pressure will mount on New Zealand to align—possibly via the promise of more lucrative British free trade deal currently under negotiation.

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