The New Zealand seafood industry and the country's largest dairy cooperative are among those welcoming a potential Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and New Zealand.

The New Zealand Seafood Industry Council (SeaFIC) said New Zealand's seafood exports to China could treble if an FTA is successfully negotiated, reported Xinhua New Agency.

"We're already selling about NZ$100m (US$71m) worth of seafood and fish products to China to make it one of our most strategically important markets," Owen Symmans, chief executive of SeaFIC, was quoted as saying, adding that SeaFIC believes China could grow to become one of its biggest markets, along with Japan, the US and Europe. 

New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra Cooperative also welcomed the announcement that New Zealand and China are to begin negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement.

Fonterra's director of government and trade, Philip Turner, said that while multilateral trade liberalisation through the World Trade Organisation was Fonterra's foremost objective, bilateral agreements could also deliver useful benefits.

"It is strategically critical for New Zealand to be inside the most dynamic zones of economic growth around the world, of which China is certainly one. We are pleased to see New Zealand taking a leading role in building economic ties with China," he said.

"China is already a major player in the world economy and is growing extremely fast.  It is one of the top four or five customers worldwide for Fonterra and will only get more important to us," he added.