China formally implemented the upgraded China and New Zealand free trade agreement (FTA) on Thursday in a move to promote deeper cooperation between the two sides while sending a positive signal that the two countries will work together to cope with the pandemic and support multilateralism and free trade.
As 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand, the implementation of the deal is a concrete approach to implement the two countries’ leaders’ consensus, embodying the two sides’ willingness to expand bilateral trade and economic cooperation by deepening free trade partnership, according to a statement on the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) website.
The upgraded FTA further reduces tariffs and non-tariff barriers, expands cooperation in services trade and investment, as well as rule making.
Specifically, China has agreed to eliminate tariffs of 12 timber and paper products imported from New Zealand over 10 years. In investment, New Zealand has eased the screening threshold for investment from China, and has committed to apply the same threshold to Chinese investment as to other Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) members.
It’s worth noting that the upgraded agreement is a step further than the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). For example, building on RCEP, China has opened up aviation, education, finance, aged care, and passenger transport to New Zealand. In the work permits for special professions, New Zealand has doubled the quota for Putonghua teachers and Chinese tourists to 300 and 200, professions that receive most applications from Chinese citizens.
The upgraded protocol will accumulate more experience for China in signing and upgrading FTAs with other countries, carrying out negotiations in joining CPTPP and formulating RCEP negative list, experts said.
The China-New Zealand FTA was signed in 2008. It’s the first such agreement China has signed with a developed country. In 2016, the two sides launched the negotiations to upgrade the FTA, and announced conclusion of the upgrade negotiations in November 2019.
Since the two countries signed the FTA, bilateral trade has grown rapidly, with China being the largest trade partner, largest export destination and largest import source for years in a row. In 2021, foreign trade between the two countries hit a new record of $24.72 billion, about 5.6 times of the level recorded in 2008, data from the MOFCOM showed.