The ground-breaking cooperation agreement between China and New Zealand on the Belt and Road Initiative -- the first with a developed Western country -- came like a lovely breeze across the South-Pacific amid the global chill of rising protectionism.
During Premier Li Keqiang’s four-day official visit to the Oceanian country, the first visit by a Chinese premier in 11 years, Premier Li and his New Zealand counterpart, Bill English, witnessed the signing of the agreement on March 27 in Wellington.
China and New Zealand will explore the possibilities of bilateral cooperation in various fields to promote interconnectivity between the two countries, he said at a joint press conference with English at Premier House.
The move offers a win-win model of globalization and sets an example of bilateral cooperation for other Western countries, Liu Qing, head of the Asia-Pacific department at the China Institute of International Studies, told Xinhua.
It shows New Zealand’s commitment to embracing the vast opportunities China offers, which are important to the development of globalization, Liu added.
The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. It aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along, and beyond, the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
The initiative has won support from over 100 countries and international organizations, with the signing of nearly 50 inter-governmental agreements of cooperation.
The value of infrastructure projects rose 47 percent to nearly $500 billion in 66 countries and regions that fell under the initiative in 2016, according to accounting firm PwC.
New Zealand is a “natural extension” of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, so China welcomes New Zealand’s participation in building the Belt and Road, Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Lutong said in a published article in Chinese.
China will invite New Zealand to attend a high-level meeting within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative in May to deepen dialogue and exchange, expand consensus and engage in win-win cooperation, Wang said.
New Zealand has always been a front-runner among developed countries in cooperating with China, Liu Qing said.
New Zealand was the first Western developed country to conclude bilateral negotiations on China’s accession to the World Trade Organization, to recognize China’s full market-economy status, to sign and implement a bilateral free trade agreement with China, and to join the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as a founding member.
New Zealand was also the first country to sign both film and TV cooperation deals in 2010 and 2014 respectively with China, and New Zealand was the first country to have two Chinese cultural centers.
Liu Qing believes that Belt and Road cooperation between the two countries will help upgrade bilateral economic and trade ties in sectors including infrastructure, agriculture, telecommunications and services.
Pan Gang, President of Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, China’s leading dairy producer, agreed.
At the opening ceremony of the second phase of its Oceania Production Base on the South Island of New Zealand on March 25, Pan said that the Belt and Road Initiative has provided new opportunities for companies of both countries in dairy cooperation in broadening the consumer market and increasing production capacity.
Dairy cooperation is just one example of fruitful bilateral economic cooperation. Over the past three years, China has become New Zealand’s largest export destination, trade partner and import source, with bilateral trade exceeding 20 billion New Zealand dollars ($14 billion) last year, up nearly 5 percent year on year.
Both sides are working steadily toward the goal of 30 billion New Zealand dollars ($21 billion) by 2020, set by the leaders of both sides.
In addition, Belt and Road cooperation between the two nations will also benefit countries of the South Pacific at large to share in regional connectivity, said Liu Qing.
Through the Belt and Road platform, countries of the South Pacific can strengthen infrastructure connectivity including shipping, aviation and the internet, as well as construction of ports and roads, he added.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is very important to connecting countries and creating more opportunities for exchanges of goods and services,” said Hans-Paul Burkner, chairman of the Boston Consulting Group.
Burkner said the initiative can push globalization to a new level, as it can connect more countries in Asia and beyond to the world economy.
Indeed, as China and New Zealand celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties this year, they will continue to press ahead with more practical cooperation and strengthen global and regional confidence, Liu Qing said.