China and New Zealand sign landmark trade pact

2 min

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark has signed the first trade agreement between China and a developed economy. The first tariff cuts will take place October 1.


New Zealand signed a free-trade agreement with China on Monday, a Chinese foreign ministry official said, making it the first developed economy to enter such a pact with the Asian giant.

The agreement, signed on the first full day of a China visit by New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, came after nearly four years of negotiations between the two sides.

"This is an historic day for China-New Zealand relations," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said ahead of the signing ceremony.

"The signing and implementation of the China-New Zealand free trade agreement will bring our friendly relationship even closer and deliver tangible benefits to both our countries."

Clark also spoke warmly of the partnership ahead of the signing, which a foreign ministry official told AFP occurred shortly after midday.

"It was with a great sense of ambition that we embarked on this particular phase of the relationship," she told Wen.

"Thanks to considerable efforts by you, President Hu (Jintao), your government and our government, we're at this extraordinary moment today."

New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff, who is travelling with Clark, emphasised the historic nature of the agreement.

"Being the first developed country to sign a comprehensive FTA with China is an enormous achievement for New Zealand," he said.

"By reducing barriers to trade in goods, services and investment in China, the FTA will give New Zealand businesses a distinct advantage over competitors into that market."

Two-way trade between the two nations hit 7.54 billion New Zealand dollars (5.94 billion dollars) in 2007, according to official estimates from Auckland, although the final data has not yet been released.

With the new deal, bilateral trade is expected to grow in the coming years, while tariffs across the board on both sides will be gradually reduced over time, government officials said.

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