New Zealand PM backs Five Eyes alliance but will consider other economic alliances

New Zealand PM backs Five Eyes alliance but will consider other economic alliances

Nov 26 Reuters - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern expressed support for its Five Eyes alliance with Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States on Friday, but said her country would consider other economic alliances in the Pacific region.

New Zealand has faced increasing pressure from Western allies over its reluctance to use the Five Eyes intelligence and security alliance to criticise its top trading partner, China.

Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference that they do have important alliances they are part of and we consider fit for purpose and need to be used for the functions for which they were originally established.

She said there was a benefit to seeing a range of other actors in our region showing greater interest, not just in the strategic environment but in the economic architecture for example of our region.

Multilateral trade agreements, through bilateral trade agreements, are a way that we welcome other countries to be more closely aligned. New Zealand's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta raised eyebrows earlier this year when she said she was uncomfortable with expanding the role of Five Eyes beyond a security and intelligence framework.

Mahuta said New Zealand needed to respect China's particular customs, traditions and values. China, which takes almost one-third of New Zealand's exports, accuses Five Eyes of ganging up on it by issuing statements on Hong Kong and the treatment of ethnic Muslim Uyhgurs in Xinjiang.

Ardern, who earlier this year said that differences between China and China were becoming harder to reconcile, said on Friday there was no question that China's posture has changed in many ways. She said that over the last decade, we've seen a different dynamic, a different range of leaders with a strategic interest in our region and that does pose challenges.

New Zealand has been utterly consistent. We have always jealously guarded our foreign policy independent positions and continue to do so.