New Zealand, China look for early FTA pact
Visiting New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday said her country is looking for an early agreement with China on a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA).
Clark touched down in Beijing on Sunday for a three-day working visit, meeting President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday to talk about the FTA issue and the enhancement of bilateral ties.
As Clark delivered her message that free trade talks must result in a comprehensive deal, Wen said China is willing to join hands with New Zealand to push forward negotiations on the basis of mutual respect and mutual interest and enhance mutual political trust.
Wen said he would like to see the two countries strengthen co-operation in agriculture, forestry, energy and resource exploitation and expand cultural and educational exchanges, saying trade and technological co-operation is the common desire of both sides.
He said China and New Zealand are important nations in the Asia-Pacific region and share broad common interests in maintaining regional peace and development, adding both sides should build closer co-ordination on regional and international issues.
Clark said the two countries are facing many opportunities for further co-operation and the FTA agreement is making active progress in a good atmosphere.
She said the tiny Pacific nation is also hoping to enhance cultural exchanges with China to promote mutual understanding and friendship between the two peoples.
Both sides expressed their willingness to discuss signing a cultural co-operation agreement.
Before meeting with Chinese leaders, Clark told reporters she was confident her country and China could agree on a pioneering free trade agreement, but would not set a deadline.
"It's going to be an interesting, tough negotiation, but I am confident that China wants it to succeed," she said.
Clark said New Zealand wants to become the first developed country to sign a free-trade deal with China but she could not offer an exact date, noting that similar agreements with Singapore and Thailand took about a year to negotiate.
She said potential sticking points are China's protection of its growing dairy industry and New Zealand's tariffs on textiles and footwear.
(China Daily 05/31/2005 page2)