China and New Zealand yesterday agreed to step up progress on free trade
negotiations during Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to the island nation.
The two countries also signed a series of pacts to
increase co-operation in such areas as legal assistance and cultural exchanges
as well as education and training.
Premier Wen Jiabao (L)
shakes hands with New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark after
witnessing the signing of a number of treaties and agreements in
Wellington April 6, 2006. [Reuters]
During their talks in Wellington, Wen and his New Zealand counterpart Helen
Clark agreed to raise the negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) to the
There have been six rounds of talks on the FTA since November 2004 and the
next round is set for next month.
The talks have entered a crucial stage and have encountered some
difficulties, for instance, in agriculture and services, Wen said at a joint
media conference with Clark.
"These are not insurmountable difficulties they might be a blessing in
Wen hoped the talks could be completed within one or two years.
"The agreement will be comprehensive, of high quality, balanced, and serving
the interests of both sides and acceptable to both sides."
The planned FTA would be China's first with a developed economy, Wen noted.
He arrived in Wellington late on Wednesday for an official visit to New
Zealand, the first trip to the country by a Chinese premier in nearly 18 years.
It is the third leg of his four-nation Asia-Pacific tour, which earlier took
him to Australia and Fiji. He is due to arrive in Cambodia late today.
China is New Zealand's fourth-largest trading partner with bilateral trade
reaching US$2.68 billion last year, almost 2.5 times that in 2000.
Educational exchanges are frequent and New Zealand is host to nearly 30,000
Chinese students. Besides, 85,000 Chinese tourists visited New Zealand last
Speaking at a luncheon in honour of her Chinese guest, Clark said: "We are
engaged in free trade negotiations which offer opportunities for the development
of both our economies."
Both sides also agreed to strengthen co-operation in fighting organized
Clark announced that New Zealand would participate in the 2010 World Expo in
One of the agreements yesterday was for Air New Zealand to operate a direct
flight between Auckland and Shanghai.
"We also look forward to closer collaboration in Asia Pacific Economic
Co-operation and at the East Asian Summit, as well as in the many other
international organizations of which we are both members," Clark said. "New
Zealand can be both a contributor to, and a beneficiary of, China's growth and
(China Daily 04/07/2006 page1)