New Zealand will work with China in upholding the multilateral trading system and rule-based free trade amid rising protectionism, the country’s new ambassador to Beijing, Clare Fearnley, said.
“We hear more voices questioning the benefits of economic integration and the rule-based trading system,” Fearnley told China Daily in her first interview with Chinese media. “We are a trading nation and want to see our region stable, prosperous and economically integrated.”
New Zealand attaches great importance to the role China plays globally and the priority placed by China’s leadership on supporting an internationally open trading system, she said.
New Zealand is also dedicated to breaking down trade and other economic barriers by participating in regional cooperation mechanisms, such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Fearnley said she hopes to see a high-quality RCEP agreement reached.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s reform and opening-up and the 10th anniversary of the free-trade agreement between the two countries.
Fearnley said she had good learning and working experiences in China and East Asia. “When I look at the changes in daily life and the living standards of ordinary people, I don’t think that my Chinese friends and I could have imagined in the 1980s what has been achieved in today’s China,” she said.
Changes in China had roots in the reform and opening-up policy framed in 1978, Fearnley said.
New Zealand was the first developed economy to recognize China’s market economy status in 2004 and sign a free-trade agreement with China in 2008, said the Ministry of Commerce. Bilateral trade has tripled since 2007 from around $8 billion to more than $26 billion last year.
The agreement has benefitted both sides, and there is a lot more both countries can do in the services sector and new areas like e-commerce, Fearnley said.
The fourth round of negotiations on upgrading the agreement will take place in Beijing in two weeks, she said.
At the China Business Summit in early May, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said China is one of the most important and far-reaching international relationships for her country.
Ardern has received an invitation from the Chinese leadership and her visit will take place possibly this year, Fearnley said.