(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins urged his nation’s exporters not to rely so heavily on China, saying it’s important for them to diversify in an uncertain world.

“My message to Kiwi exporters is yes, we do want to make sure that you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket, that you are diversifying,” Hipkins told reporters Tuesday in Wellington. Asked if he saw value in diversifying trade beyond China, he said: “Absolutely. Any trading nation, as New Zealand is, is wise to make sure that we’ve got a diverse network of trading relationships.”

Hipkin’s Labour Party has for years spoken of the need to diversify trade, but China remains New Zealand’s largest trading partner, accounting for 28% of its exports in the year through February. China has in the past used trade as a political weapon, for example placing restrictions on imports of some Australian goods in 2020 when Canberra called for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19. 

Asked if New Zealand exports were diversified enough, Hipkins said “no, not at all.”

“We do live in a globally uncertain world and business needs to make sure they’re taking heed of that,” he said.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta departs for China today for meetings with her Chinese counterpart, Qin Gang, in Beijing — the first high-level, in-person contact between the two nations since the pandemic. 

Mahuta would be taking the message that “New Zealand values our relationship with China,” Hipkins said. “It’s a good opportunity for us to get back together, have a conversation.” 

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