Monday 5th February 2018
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New Zealand’s relationship with China was on show at China Construction Bank’s opening of a local branch, the first overseas lender approved under the Reserve Bank’s dual-registration rules.
The opening attracted group chair Tian Guoli, an alternate member of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, who was appointed to head the country’s second-biggest lender last October. CCB opened a New Zealand subsidiary in 2014, but by also operating a local branch it can access funding from its Chinese parent more easily which can then be lent domestically.
Held at CCB New Zealand’s head office in Auckland on Friday, the event was emceed by local chair and former Prime Minister Jenny Shipley and attracted Cabinet ministers Grant Robertson and Phil Twyford, former Prime Minister and ANZ Bank New Zealand chair John Key, MPs Raymond Huo and Jian Yang, Chinese Consul General Xu Erwen, and Zhang Fan on behalf of the Chinese Embassy.
Robertson made much of New Zealand’s four ‘firsts’ with China in being the first developed nation to recognise China as a market economy, support its accession to the World Trade Organisation, and begin and complete a free-trade agreement.
“The opening of this branch is also a sign of the continuing strength of the bilateral trade and investment relationship between New Zealand and China,” he said.
New Zealand’s economic interests have become increasingly aligned with China, with government figures recently confirming China is still the country’s biggest trading partner, while at the same time maintaining traditional security ties with fellow Five Eyes nations: the UK, the US, Canada and Australia.
Xu said CCB’s dual-registration was a mark of the depth of cooperation between the two countries, which was upgraded to a “comprehensive and strategic partnership” after President Xi Jinping’s visit in 2014, while Zhang noted there were real opportunities for the bilateral relationship with leaders of both nations attaching great importance to it.
CCB’s New Zealand loan book has almost tripled over the past year with $1.45 billion of loans and advances as at Sept. 30, up from $522.9 million a year earlier.
Tian said the new branch will enhance the lender’s local business, helping Chinese enterprises invest in New Zealand, but also by offering broader services domestically.
“The Chinese economy is entering a new phase where fast growth will be replaced by quality growth,” he said. “In this process, I see more opportunities for Chinese cooperation with New Zealand.”
Robertson reiterated the government’s plans to invest heavily in infrastructure, name-checking housing, transport and tourism as areas in need of capital, and having directed the room of bankers to Twyford, who holds the ministerial warrants for housing and transport.
“We don’t expect to be the only people doing that - the private sector does have a crucial role to play in both investing and building the infrastructure New Zealand needs and I genuinely appreciate China Construction Bank’s interest in these efforts,” he said.
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