New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff said this week he’s hopeful China and New Zealand have completed formal talks to finalize a free trade agreement between the two states — the first such deal by China with an advanced economy.
Under the proposed agreement, China will phase out tariffs on New Zealand agriculture products and New Zealand will remove remaining tariffs on Chinese textiles and footwear.
Timeframes for this to happen have yet to be confirmed, but Goff said the two countries aim to sign the final agreement in April.
Ministers have predicted that the trade deal will potentially boost New Zealand’s exports of goods and services to China by up to 400 million New Zealand dollars (US$299 million; euro207 million) a year.
China is already New Zealand’s third-largest trading partner with two-way trade worth more than 4.8 billion New Zealand dollars (US$3.6 billion; euro2.5 billion) — mostly Chinese exports.
The pact is also expected to cover the services sector, from insurance and banking to labor supply. China has already sought agreement from New Zealand for specialist workers, including chefs and Chinese language teachers to work in New Zealand.
Goff did not indicate what agreements had been reached on the sector.
With negotiations ended, officials must now review 1,000 pages of documentation before the deal can be put to the two governments for confirmation, Goff said.
“The devil can be in the detail,” he added.
Once the deal was completed it would need legal checks before going to New Zealand’s Cabinet and the Chinese government.
“We haven’t concluded the round yet, it’s an ongoing process but we are confident we will meet the deadline we have set … and that we will be able to sign the agreement in April,” he said.
The agreement would be signed by trade ministers but leaders of both countries were likely to attend the occasion of the first Western developed nation and China signing such a deal, he added.
New Zealand was the first Western nation to have reach a bilateral deal with China on its accession to the WTO, and the first developed country to recognize China’s full market economy status and to launch FTA talks with China.
First talks for the China-New Zealand free trade agreement opened in Beijing on July 6, 2004.
The same year China and New Zealand signed an economic cooperation framework which aimed to push forward cooperation in the areas of trade, agriculture, forestry, inspection and quarantine, education and tourism. Australia is also in negotiations for an FTA with China.
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