Government agrees on negotiating mandate for upgraded FTA

A goal of $30 billion of two-way trade by 2020 is envisioned.

The New Zealand government has agreed a negotiating mandate for the upgrade of the free trade agreement with China, with a goal of $30 billion of two-way trade by 2020.

Top of the agenda is improved terms for dairy, forestry and wood processing exporters, new rules to enhance online and digital trade and better measures to deal with non-tariff barriers, Trade Minister Todd McClay said. The two countries currently have $24 billion in two-way trade.

McClay said the mandate agreed upon would "deliver thousands of jobs and be worth billions to our economy", with a focus on improving access and levelling the playing field for New Zealand exporters.

In March, during a visit by China Premier Li Keqiang, the government confirmed commencement of official talks on an upgrade to the nine-year old free-trade agreement between the two countries.

That meeting also saw 21 other agreements signed, including a six-month trial for 10 local meat processors to sell chilled meat to China for the first time, mutual recognition of trusted exporters to speed up the customs process, a new air services agreement to increase the number of flights between the countries, and the adoption of a climate change action plan. The countries also signed a memorandum of arrangement to find a way to draw New Zealand into China's Belt and Road regional trade strategy.

The March agreements came after Prime Minister Bill English launched New Zealand's refreshed trade strategy to 2030, with the government set to inject $91.3 million over the next four years to beef up the ability to negotiate new free trade deals, get more out of existing ones, and break down non-tariff barriers that have become increasingly popular as a form of protectionism.


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