New Zealand will become closer to China, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in allaying fears his protectionist campaign rhetoric would fuel tensions.
Peters played a decisive role in putting the Labour Party in power in October after an inconclusive election left his nationalist New Zealand First party holding the balance of power.
Peters, also deputy prime minister, said yesterday "our record of trade and economic firsts is dramatic" as he set out a China stance. "New Zealand will continue to seek closer cooperation with China as both countries focus on sustainable economic development."
Peters campaigned on talk of curbing immigration and foreign investment, which fed concern he could anger China, his country's top destination for exports. Trade between the two tops NZ$24 billion (HK$129.3 billion) a year, and New Zealand was the first Western nation to sign up to China's Belt and Road initiative.
Peters also defended China on human rights, saying: "When you have hundreds of millions of people to be re-employed and relocated with a change of your economic structure you have some huge problems."