China and New Zealand inked a deal on Tuesday upgrading a free trade pact to give exports from the Pacific nation greater access to the world’s second-largest economy, reports Reuters.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters, “China remains one of our most important trade partners. For this to take place during the global economic crisis brought about by Covid-19 makes it particularly important.”
The trade deal provides for tariffs to be either removed or cut on many of New Zealand’s exports, ranging from dairy to timber and seafood.
China’s new deal with Wellington also opens up sectors such as aviation, education and finance. In exchange, New Zealand will increase visa quotas for Chinese language teachers and tour guides, the official Xinhua news agency said.
“The upgrade shows the two sides’ firm determination to support multilateralism and free trade,” Zhao Lijian of China’s foreign ministry, told a news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.
China is now New Zealand’s largest trading partner, with annual two-way trade of more than US$21.58 billion.
New Zealand was the first developed nation to sign a free trade pact with China in 2008, and has long been touted by Beijing as an exemplar of Western engagement.
This week, speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, President Xi Jinping criticised isolationism and “Cold War” thinking and called for barriers to trade, investment and technological exchange to be removed.
In recent months, Beijing has signed an investment pact with the European Union and joined the world’s largest free trade bloc in the 15-country Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes New Zealand.
China has also expressed interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the successor to a pact from which Washington withdrew.
But ties have been tested under Ardern’s government as New Zealand criticised China’s influence on small Pacific islands and raised human rights concerns about Muslim Uighurs.
Ardern also backed Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Organization despite a warning from Beijing.