New Zealand, China to open FTA talks next year

Associated Press

Wellington, April 14:

China and New Zealand will begin talks next year on a formal free trade agreement, which could provide significant benefits to both economies, prime minister Helen Clark said today.

New Zealand is "the first developed economy" invited to negotiate such a deal by the rapidly growing Asian giant, Clark said. The two disproportionately sized countries have reached agreement on a formal trade and economic cooperation framework, to be signed in June. Talks for the framework deal began shortly after Chinese president Hu Jintao visited New Zealand last October.

"A full trade agreement will unlock very significant growth opportunities for both countries," Clark said, adding it was "an exciting development." She said New Zealand had a reputation as "a solid partner" with China stretching back 30 years to the 1973 diplomatic recognition of the communist state. New Zealand was also the first nation to sign a World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession deal with China, which had helped its profile in Beijing.