China and New Zealand sign upgraded free-trade deal, eliminating nearly all trade tariffs
Beijing calls for lower global barriers
China and New Zealand signed on Tuesday an agreement to renew the free trade pact to give Pacific country’s exports greater access to the world’s second largest economy.
The pact comes as Beijing seeks to establish itself as a staunch supporter of multi-pronged politics following a hard trade war with the United States, while the coronavirus has forced many international borders to close..
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern confirmed the signing of an extended deal.
«China remains one of our most important trading partners … The fact that this happened during the global economic crisis caused by COVID-19 makes it especially important», – she said at a press conference.
The pact expands on an existing trade deal with China to ensure it meets targets for another decade, the Commerce Minister said in a statement. Damien O’Connor.
The document provides for the elimination or reduction of tariffs on many of New Zealand’s exported goods, from dairy products to timber and seafood, while also reducing compliance costs..
«The update shows the firm commitment of both sides to support multilateralism and free trade», – Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said at a briefing in Beijing on Tuesday Zhao Lijian.
The day before, speaking at the virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, the President Xi Jinping criticized isolationism and the thinking of the times «cold war», and also called for the removal of barriers to trade, investment and technology exchange.
In recent months, Beijing signed an investment pact with the European Union and joined the world’s largest free trade bloc in the Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership (RCEP), which includes 15 countries, including New Zealand..
China has also expressed interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which is the successor to the pact that Washington withdrew..
China’s new agreement with Wellington also opens up sectors such as aviation, education and finance for bilateral cooperation. In exchange, New Zealand will increase visa quotas for Chinese teachers and guides, the official Xinhua News Agency reports..
New Zealand became the first developed country to sign a free trade agreement with China in 2008, and for many years Beijing has touted it as a model of cooperation with the Western world.
China is currently New Zealand’s largest trading partner with an annual bilateral trade volume of over NZ $ 32 billion (US $ 21.58 billion).
But business ties have been overhauled by the Ardern government as New Zealand criticized China’s influence over small islands in the Pacific and raised human rights concerns for Muslim Uyghurs..
Ardern also supported Taiwan’s participation in the World Health Organization (WHO) despite Beijing’s discontent..
A broader trade deal also ties into the deterioration of Beijing’s ties with its regionally neighboring Australia after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in central China..
Australia asks the World Trade Organization to reconsider China’s decision to impose high import tariffs on its barley.
New Zealand, which will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation regional summit this year, said it would be ready to help negotiate a ceasefire between China and Australia..