NZ-China trade pact on track for April

National Business Review, New Zealand

NZ-China trade pact on track for April

25 February 2008

NZPA. New Zealand and China are still planning to sign a trade deal in April, though final agreement on the detail is yet to be reached.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that the New Zealand Cabinet had to yet to consider and approve the final text, but was likely to in the next few weeks.

At this stage Miss Clark said she was still hoping to attend events to mark the signing of the trade deal planned for the first half of April.

Miss Clark said there were still issues around legal verification and the translation of the agreement into Mandarin and English.

"In the course of that you can always come up with area that appeared clear to each other in one’s own language... you have to really tie all that down," Miss Clark said.

Asked if there had been compromise over agricultural access to China, Miss Clark said negotiations had been going for some time.

"In the course of a long haul both sides can set out with various levels of ambition and at some point the two have to converge in an agreement.

"So not everybody gets everything they want straightaway in negotiation, but New Zealand does not conclude a negotiation unless it thinks it is of some benefit."

To make the agreement, enabling legislation would have to be passed by Parliament and Labour may have to rely on National to pass it as New Zealand First and the Greens have been suspicious of free trade deals.

Miss Clark said she did not know what position NZ First would take on the necessary laws, but "in the normal course of events, the National Party has been supportive of such legislation."

Miss Clark said China had very open access to New Zealand now.

"The key breakthroughs with an agreement with China will be us getting some reciprocity, because we do face quite significant tariffs on key exports into that market.

"Should we be successful and be able to announce that in April, that is a very, very big move for the Kiwi economy. A very important move and beneficial."

The deal would be internationally significant as it will be China’s first trade deal with a developed country.

In December, after the 15th round of talks between the two countries, NZPA reported that Miss Clark was confident the free trade agreement with China could be reached and signed in April this year.

Miss Clark plans to travel to Britain for a Royal Family Service in early April to mark the death of Sir Edmund Hillary and then travel back through China on her return to New Zealand.

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