China and NZ draw closer to trade deal

By Diao Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-11-13 07:05

China and New Zealand may complete negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) over the course of next year despite some difficulties in agricultural and service areas.

New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff said in his visit to Beijing that New Zealand hopes to become the first developed country to conclude an FTA with China.

"The focus of this visit is to promote the early and successful outcome of the free trade agreement," he said at a press conference. "The FTA will strengthen and draw closer relations between the two countries and the two peoples."

The ninth round of the FTA negotiation between the two countries wrapped up this October in New Zealand's capital city of Wellington. According to China's commerce ministry, the two sides had increased consensus on the trade of products and services, investment, intellectual property rights, resolution of disputes, rules of origins, customs co-operation, technical barriers and other issues.

China is New Zealand's fourth-largest market. The goods trade between China and New Zealand has been growing rapidly at an average annual rate of about 37 per cent since 1995.

"This is an exciting time in the relationship between our two countries. The two-way goods trade is growing well," the minister told the press conference.

"New Zealand has benefited from the manufacturing industry in China, since the products are of good quality and competitive prices," Goff said.

China has exported electrical home appliances, garments and furniture to New Zealand and imported raw materials including wood, pulp, wool and fish from the island nation.

"The outcome of the negotiations will deliver zero tariff to industries of the two countries, although there are some sensitive commodities which will allow for a period of time to adjust to the change," Goff said.

"There are also some new fields in the negotiations, such as service sectors and government procurement," he said, adding that negotiations on these sectors may become examples for other countries.

Premier Wen Jiabao said during his visit to New Zealand this April that the negotiations had entered into a crucial stage and the two sides encountered some difficulties in agricultural and service areas, but "these are not insurmountable difficulties."

Wen and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark also agreed during his visit that the two sides are to conclude the negotiations on FTA in one or two years.

"A high quality FTA between our two countries will bring mutual benefit to our peoples, including Chinese and New Zealand farmers. Our dairy sectors are complementary," Goff said.

New Zealand was the first country to conclude World Trade Organization accession negotiations, the first developed country to recognize China as a market economy and the first developed country to begin FTA negotiations with China.

"New Zealand is keen to add a fourth 'first' to that list, to be the first developed country to conclude a FTA with China," Goff said.

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