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New Zealand PM to offer food safety assurances in China | Updated: 2014-03-04 09:30

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Monday that he will visit China this month to assure Chinese leaders and the public that New Zealand food products are safe after last year's global botulism scare.

Key, who will depart on March 17, said he was scheduled to meet with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to discuss increasing agriculture and food safety cooperation, financial sector cooperation and enhancing bilateral trade, economic and political relationship.

"My visit provides an opportunity to brief China's leaders on the outcomes of the government inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident," Key said in a statement.

"I will be able to report to China's political leadership, and assure Chinese consumers, that the inquiry delivered a strong endorsement of the New Zealand food safety system."

New Zealand and China were on track to achieving the shared goal of doubling two-way trade to 20 billion NZ dollars (16.7 billion U.S. dollars) by 2015, he said.

Last year, two-way trade totaled 18.2 billion NZ dollars (15.2 billion U.S. dollars), up 25 percent on the previous year.

The New Zealand government announced last month that it had set up a working group to improve dairy product traceability in the wake of Fonterra's global recall last August of whey protein concentrate mistakenly suspected of containing a botulism-causing bacterium.

The government inquiry into the incident recommended improving the dairy sector's ability to trace products and ingredients.

Key said he would also visit Hong Kong where he will hold high level meetings, undertake activities relating to his role as minister of tourism, before attending the third Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague.

The summit on March 24-25 would focus on improving the security of nuclear materials and reducing the global threat from nuclear terrorism.

"Preventing nuclear terrorism is a global challenge which all countries must address together. New Zealand's long-standing concerns about nuclear issues are well known and we will continue to play our part in this effort," said Key.

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