NZ and China agree deal to expand trade pact

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China and New Zealand have put pen to paper on a new pact to upgrade and strengthen the two countries' existing trade deal.

New Zealand and China have signed a new deal that will expand on the existing trade pact between the two countries and give New Zeland greater access to Chinese markets.

It will see a range of tariffs either removed or cut on many of New Zealand's mostly commodities-based exports. This will include dairy, timber and seafood, while compliance costs will also be reduced, Reuters reports.

Speaking at a news conference, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern said: "China remains one of our most important trade partners ... For this to take place during the global economic crisis brought about by COVID-19 makes it particularly important."

Trade minister Damien O'Connor added that the upgraded deal will ensure trade between the two countries is fit for purpose for the next decade.

Among the provisions in the new agreement are reduced compliance costs for New Zealand exports, including simplified documentation requirements and dedicated contacts for New Zealand businesses at key ports in China.

It will also lead to tariff-free access for around 99 per cent of New Zealand’s wood and paper trade to China, which is worth some NZ$3 billion, with phased elimination of tariffs on an additional NZ$35 million of wood and paper products.

China will also benefit from increased visa quotas for Chinese language teachers and tour guides in New Zealand.

Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, told reporters in Beijing the upgraded deal highlights both countries' commitment to multilateralism and free trade.

The agreement comes shortly after Chinese president Xi Jinping used a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum to criticize isolationism and "Cold War" thinking, while also calling for barriers to trade, investment and technological exchange to be removed.

In recent months, China has also signed onto the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in Asia-Pacific and agreed a new investment pact with the EU. It has also expressed interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership of Pacific Rim countries.