China trade deal on track for April - Clark

NZPA | Wednesday, 21 November 2007

China trade deal on track for April - Clark

New Zealand remains on track to complete a "high quality and comprehensive" free trade deal with China by April next year, Prime Minister Helen Clark says.

Achieving the agreed April deadline would make New Zealand the first developed nation to wrap up a free trade agreement (FTA) with China.

Miss Clark met with China’s Premier Wen Jiabao last night (overnight NZT) ahead of a major meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Singapore today.

Miss Clark said she left the talks optimistic about the 15th round of negotiations which would take place early next month.

"On the FTA it remains crystal clear that at the highest level of the Chinese government they want to conclude a deal."

She did not believe quality would have to be sacrificed to achieve the deadline.

"It is possible to have signed by April a high quality comprehensive and balanced deal, that’s always been the aspiration.

"So we go into the next round of talks obviously keen to make very decisive progress towards that."

Miss Clark said dairy remained a sticking point, but that was the same for almost all trade negotiations New Zealand took part in.

"Our point always is New Zealand could not export enough dairy products to feed the people of China," she said.

"In essence the strategy out of our major dairy industry is the export of technology, services and investment, which helps the Chinese dairy industry itself grow."

She said the reason the negotiations were heading towards the "outer limit" of the agreed time frame was their precedent setting nature.

"China is very conscious, as we are, that this is the first agreement they are working to complete with a Western country.

"So it’s not so much a question of what they agree with New Zealand . . . It’s a question of what that then means for negotiations with the European Union or the United States down the track."

- NZPA

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source: Stuff