It has taken over eight years and thirty rounds of negotiations, but the New Zealand government has just signed what has been called the world’s largest free-trade agreement with China. The new agreement offers several New Zealand goods faster access to Chinese markets and a reduction in tariffs on paper and wood products. Trade Minister Damien O’Connor and China’s Commerce Minister Wang Wentao inked the deal in a video-link meeting on Tuesday (1-26-21) afternoon, more than a year after it was first settled by the countries. According to Minister O’Connor, “What this does is modernize the free trade agreement that we signed in 2008, brings it up to date. It provides real opportunities for exporters.” O’Connor elaborated further saying, “Ten years ago, some of the issues around trade were not as sophisticated, this agreement allows us to move forward, particularly in the area of services.” New Zealand will have 98 per cent free trade with China, its largest trading partner, once the agreement comes fully into force. The upgrade has primarily focused on reducing compliance costs for exporters, and other measures which ease access to China’s markets. Forest Owners Association president Phil Taylor said the agreement would benefit the forestry industry “immediately”. New Zealand has a trade surplus with China, exporting $NZ19.4 billion in goods and services to the country, and importing $NZ13 billion.
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New Zealand upgrades free trade deal with China