The governments of New Zealand and China have entered into discussions to “upgrade” the free trade agreement between the two countries. 

Prime Minister John Key today (21 November) announced the launch of negotiations following a meeting between NZ Trade Minister Todd McClay and Chinese Commerce Minister Gao Hucheng at the APEC Summit in Lima, Peru. 

“It has been eight years since our FTA with China came into force and it has exceeded all expectations. It has an enviable record and showcases to the world the importance of trade liberalisation,” Key said. “The upgrade will be an opportunity to deepen and broaden our comprehensive strategic partnership. It will ensure that our FTA continues to drive our relationship forward.”

The negotiations will look to improve or enhance a range of areas already covered by the FTA, including technical barriers, customs procedures, cooperation and trade facilitation, rules of origin, services and environmental cooperation. It will also address a number of newer areas such as competition policy and e-commerce, the NZ government noted. 

A first round of negotiations will be held in the first half of 2017.

The news was welcomed by dairy cooperative Fonterra, which is the world’s largest dairy exporter. 

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“The upgrade of the FTA provides an opportunity to strengthen the already strong dairy relationship between New Zealand and China. I am pleased that the leadership of both countries recognise the value of continuing to improve the FTA. We are committed to continuing to build our business in China and the FTA will remain the key platform for that growth,” Fonterra chairman John Wilson said. 

China is New Zealand’s largest dairy export market with NZD2.7bn (US$1.9bn) worth of trade in 2015.