Senior diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) Grahame Morton has been named New Zealand’s next ambassador to China.
Morton has previously served as high commissioner to India, principal adviser on Americas and Asia, and as the divisional manager of the North Asia Division. He was also the lead negotiator of the NZ-Singapore Enhanced partnership and led the whole of government NZ China Capable Public Sector programme.
His appointment comes as NZ continues to balance its relationship with China and the United States, in particular amid growing geopolitical tensions between those two nations.
In late May, a joint statement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and US President Joe Biden expressed “grave concerns” about human rights violations in Xinjiang and the erosion of freedoms in Hong Kong. This earned a rebuke from China.
However, in August, Ardern seemed to take a friendlier tone at the China business summit and said she hoped to lead a trade delegation to China when covid-19 restrictions allowed. Any trip to Beijing would be her first since 2019.
China is NZ’s largest trading partner.
“We continue to engage directly with China on a range of regional and global priorities. As our links with China continue to grow, I know Mr Morton’s extensive experience across Asia will enhance our relations even further,” Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said.
Morton will take up his new role in December 2022.