China has promised not to punish New Zealand if it joins Australia's international inquiry into the origins of COVID-19, the Foreign Minister says.
Winston Peters says officials at the highest level of China's government have allayed fears that New Zealand's participation in the enquiry would result in consequences for exporters.
It comes just days after China fired a warning shot at Australia - which alongside the US is leading calls for an investigation - for its "dangerous" insistence on investigating the origins of the outbreak.
"The Chinese public is frustrated, dismayed and disappointed with what Australia is doing now," China's Ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, told the Australian Financial Review.
"If the mood is going from bad to worse, people would think 'why should we go to such a country that is not so friendly to China?' The tourists may have second thoughts."
Cheng also warned that Chinese students may stop wanting to attend Australian universities, and there have been suggestions it could boycott Australian goods.
Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media New Zealand would be interested in joining the inquiry - and on Wednesday her deputy Winston Peters stayed to the script, saying Cheng's comments haven't changed the Government's stance.
"There's two interpretations of [Cheng's comments]," the Foreign Minister told media on Wednesday afternoon.
"[One], the ambassador was mistaken in his words. And [two] it's also very hard to conceive that a brilliant diplomat like [Chinese Foreign Minister] Wang Yi would allow that to be his nation's message for anyone asking legitimate enquiries.
"It is very hard to conceive, no matter what country it is, of there not being a desire from every country around the world - including the country of origin - for an investigation to find out how this happened."
Peters says he's worked with China for more than two decades, and he trusts what they've told him.
"I'm not worried about [potential ramifications] because China has promised me they don't behave that way," he continued.
"The Chinese at the very highest level have promised me over the years - and I've been engaged with China going all the way back 22 years - that they don't behave that way, and I take them at their word."
Momentum for an independent inquest has been building in recent weeks. There is international interest in what caused coronavirus to appear in Wuhan, and how it spread domestically before morphing into a global pandemic.