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China, New Zealand ink trade deal as Beijing calls for reduced global barriers

Economy Jan 26, 2021 03:20AM ET
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© Reuters. New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern addresses the media after a debate in Auckland

By Praveen Menon and Gabriel Crossley

WELLINGTON/BEIJING (Reuters) - China and New Zealand signed 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.

The pact comes as Beijing seeks to establish itself as a strong advocate of multilateralism after a bruising trade war with the United States, at a time when the coronavirus has forced the closure of many international borders.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed the signing of the expanded deal.

"China remains one of our most important trade partners...For this to take place during the global economic crisis bought about by COVID-19 makes it particularly important," she told a news conference.

The pact widens an existing trade deal with China to ensure it remains fit for purpose for another decade, Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said in a statement.

It provides for tariffs to be either removed or cut on many of New Zealand's mostly commodities-based exports, ranging from dairy to timber and seafood, while compliance costs will also be reduced.

For a factbox on key deal points, please click on the square brackets:

CHINA'S MULTILATERAL PUSH

"The upgrade shows the two sides' firm determination to support multilateralism and free trade," Zhao Lijian, a spokesman of China's foreign ministry, told a news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday.

The previous day, speaking at a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, President Xi Jinping had 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 (RCEP), which includes New Zealand.

China has also expressed interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive (NYSE:PGR) Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) Agreement, the successor to a pact from which Washington withdrew.

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.

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.

China is now New Zealand’s largest trading partner, with annual two-way trade of more than NZ$32 billion ($21.58 billion).

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 (WHO) despite a warning from Beijing.

The wider trade pact also comes as Beijing's ties with neighbouring Australia worsened after Canberra called for an independent investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in central China.

Australia has appealed to the World Trade Organization to review China's decision to impose hefty tariffs on imports of its barley.

New Zealand, which will host the regional Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit this year, has said it would be willing to help negotiate a truce between China and Australia.

China, New Zealand ink trade deal as Beijing calls for reduced global barriers
 

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Comments (11)
TheGamingFoxy FoxyGamer
TheGamingFoxy FoxyGamer Jan 26, 2021 9:40AM ET
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free & capitalism at its best
John Raymond
John Raymond Jan 26, 2021 7:26AM ET
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there are already more than enough Chinese in nz after john keys national during their last tenure increased them from less than 1% to more than 10% of the population
John Raymond
John Raymond Jan 26, 2021 7:24AM ET
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Wake up nz. and diversify your export markets. all your eggs in one basket is the huge mistake Australia made also starting with labour pm rudd china advocate and look what is happening now!! but where at least they have had the courage and moral fortitude to call for an int,l investigation into the virus origin.
Michael Paulsen
Michael Paulsen Jan 26, 2021 5:23AM ET
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Nothing good comes out of china, nothing good.
John Raymond
John Raymond Jan 26, 2021 5:23AM ET
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Absolutely unequivocally correct
Vik Knowledge
Vik Knowledge Jan 26, 2021 4:49AM ET
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China just trying to build partnership around Australia and try coercive methods..We will not give in!
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Jan 26, 2021 4:17AM ET
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China 2 vs NZ 0
John Thompson
John Thompson Jan 26, 2021 4:01AM ET
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so NZ are you insisting on closing down the wet markets that trade in live animals like our precious pets that land up on the  menu and kept in cages not bigger than a square foot? I guess not so get prepared for another pandemic thats spreads like covid and kills like  Ebola in a few years!
Art Fire
Art Fire Jan 26, 2021 3:00AM ET
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Its funny Xi cries to lopen up globe as he personally destroyed jack mas effort to get into it. Or does he think the rest if the world is as gullable as his people?
fox mulder
fox mulder Jan 25, 2021 10:55PM ET
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Smart.
Chris Sundo
Chris Sundo Jan 25, 2021 10:45PM ET
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A woman leader's gov't always/usually does better than male leadership these days. Women leaders do what's right and you can't argue with that ;) -- Way to go New Zealand ;)
John Tee John Tee
John Tee John Tee Jan 25, 2021 10:45PM ET
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Yeah way to go selling the country to an authoritarian socialist regime
 
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