New Zealand, China to sign new trade deal


WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s prime minister said Sunday she would sign a groundbreaking free trade agreement with China on April 7 at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

The deal — which will give New Zealand access to the world’s fastest growing economy — is expected to boost exports to China by up to NZ$400 million (US$318 million; euro201 million) a year.

“This is a significant event for both New Zealand and China,” said Prime Minister Helen Clark, adding that details of the agreement would be released publicly after the signing ceremony.

Previously Clark said the trade pact would cut tariff barriers for New Zealand farm exports to China. Farm output makes up half of New Zealand’s annual economic production.

Beyond trade in goods, the agreement is also expected to cover the services sector, from insurance and banking to education and labor supply. China has already sought New Zealand’s permission for specialist workers, including chefs and Chinese language teachers, to work in New Zealand. New Zealand has said it will study the proposal closely.

Two-way trade between China and New Zealand is currently worth more than NZ$4.8 billion (US$3.8 billion; euro2.4 billion) a year, with Chinese exports making up about 80 percent.

After the pact is signed, it will have to be formally ratified in New Zealand’s Parliament.

Clark will be one of the first Western leaders to meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao since rioting began in Tibet, and she has said she will raise the issue in formal talks.

New Zealand has urged China to engage in meaningful dialogue with representatives of the Tibetan people as the best way to achieve a lasting resolution to problems in Tibet.