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Parker seeks urgency for China free trade agreement upgrade

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NZ Herald - 25 April 2019

Parker seeks urgency for China free trade agreement upgrade

Trade Minister David Parker and Commerce Minister Zhong Shan have directed officials to complete negotiations on the upgrade of the China free trade deal as soon as possible.

The directive came during talks between Parker and Zhong in Beijing.

"We both agreed that in order to make good on the commitments that have been made by Premier Li and Prime Minister Ardern that we conclude the upgrade to the free trade agreement as soon as possible," said Parker. "That we instruct officials to progress that as soon as possible."

The next round of negotiations on the FTA upgrade have been scheduled for early May in Wellington.

Negotiations on the FTA upgrade were launched in 2016 following an official visit to China by former National Prime Minister John Key. The objective is to modernise the free trade agreement, further reduce barriers impacting exports, and boost trade.

Parker says considerable progress has been made – but he would not comment on the outstanding issues. A proposal from the dairy industry to remove safeguards on the exports of milk powders to China is off the table.

"The issue for dairy has always been do you take a short term gain for long term pain," he said pointing out it was an area of sensitivity for China."

It is understood that digital trade and services liberalisation will be at the centre of the upgrade.

Parker will use his position as a panellist at the Belt and Road trade forum in Beijing this afternoon (China time) to spell out NZ’s values and the Government’s "trade for all" agenda.

"One of the reasons for the Belt and Road is to actually encourage trade and connectivity,"Parker said.

The rise of anti-globalisation views had resulted in a Government strategy culminating in a trade for all approach and an outreach programme to spell out the benefits of trade to all New Zealanders.

Parker said the Government is now getting close to completing its Belt and Road work programme which will set out what New Zealand and China will work on. "Obviously that work plan should reflect the New Zealand economy. It is different from some less well-developed countries who have got a need for infrastructure they can’t afford themselves."

"Our Belt and Road work plan will focus on issues like greening the Belt and Road - how do you take sustainability into account in these initiatives."

He instanced New Zealand’s experience as an early participant in the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) where the last government helped shape sustainabilty rules around procurement and processes.

There will also be a focus on trade facilitation, the ease of doing business – where NZ ranks highly on international rankings - and best practice around international cooperation.

Parker revealed that China had raised climate change in every bilateral meeting he has held in Beijing. Apart from Commerce Minister Zhong he also met with the vice-chairman of China’s National Development Reform Commission Ning Jizhe and the Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie.

China is on track to be the world’s major manufacturer of electric vehicles. "They have extensive investments in electric vehicle manufacturing and and in fuel cell technologies for heavy vehicles."

Pricing carbon emissions and dealing with the impact of plastic waste on the environment was also an issue.

Parker said he pointed out that China’s ban on importing plastic waste for recycling had caused "good change" in the world.

 source: NZ Herald