NZ: Formal talks end on free trade with China

Radio New Zealand | 21 Jan 2008

Formal talks end on free trade with China

New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff says formal talks have now ended on a free trade deal with China.

He says all outstanding issues have been resolved after 15 rounds of negotiations.

The proposed deal would see China phase out tariffs on New Zealand’s agriculture products while New Zealand removes its remaining tariffs on Chinese textiles and footwear.

Mr Goff says negotiators will now work their way through about 1000 pages of text before the deal goes to Cabinet for approval.

Previously, he said on 7 December that a deal should be signed by April. Mr Goff said then he was confident China would sign separate, but parallel, agreements on labour and environment standards as part of the deal. Concerns about New Zealand’s dairy industry were a major point in the negotiations.

The Government estimates exports to China will increase by $NZ260 to $NZ400 million per year.

However, retailers and exporters are reserving judgement. The Retailers Association says any agreement should include safeguards to ensure the quality of Chinese goods.

And the Manufacturers and Exporters Association says the deal is meaningless unless it reduces the time it takes for goods made in New Zealand to gain access to the Chinese market.

Greens against deal

While the majority of parties in Parliament support a free trade agreement, the Greens oppose it.

Trade spokesman Russel Norman says the party remains strongly opposed to a trade deal with a country that has failed to ratify basic International Labour Organisation standards on the right to collective bargaining and freedom of association.

He says seven million people in Chinese concentration camps work 16 hours per day for no pay to produce goods which are sold in New Zealand.

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