Premier Li Keqiang’s upcoming visit to New Zealand will bring new vitality to the bilateral relationship, New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English said.
New Zealand officials and businesses would review progress on the upgrade of the bilateral free trade agreement and the opportunities posed by China’s Belt and Road Initiative, he said in an interview with Xinhua.
“There’s some real momentum in this relationship,” said the New Zealand leader.
“The trade agreement has ended up with trade growing about three times between New Zealand and China and what goes with that is greater flows in investment, and, of course, people-to-people connections just keep growing,” he said.
He cited the registration of Chinese banks in New Zealand as an example of how the relationship had changed since New Zealand became the first developed nation to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with China in 2008.
“The top priority for us is to agree on progress on the upgrade,” said English. “There is a whole range of things that can be more enabling in the agreement.”
The rapid growth of New Zealand’s dairy industry and its exports has motivated New Zealand to look for easier access for its products to the Chinese market.
“But it’s all within the context of a good agreement that everyone, I think, wants to see modernized so it can serve us well for the next ten years,” he said.
The visit would also highlight opportunities presented by the Belt and Road Initiative, which was boosting investment in many countries, not just in China and its immediate neighbors.
“Premier Li’s visit will highlight the view of the Chinese government that it extends well beyond that and there are opportunities for a wider range of countries and businesses to participate,” said English.
“Because we’ve got a big infrastructure investment here going on at the moment, there’s a high degree of awareness of the economic significance of the infrastructure and the whole industry that’s developed around the investment and construction of it,” he said.
The New Zealand prime minister said New Zealand also took an optimistic view of relations between China and the United States.
“It’s distinctly in the interests of the US and China to have a sound relationship and one where they can sort out disagreements, because there’s bound to be some,” he said.
“We think that because they both have such a strong interest in that, that we’ll see the US-China relationship remain constructive if sometimes a bit tense,” he said.
Yet New Zealand is able to maintain positive relationships with both countries.
“The decisions we make aren’t one at the expense of one or another. We benefit from the dynamism of both of these large dynamic economies,” he said.
Premier Li will hold official talks in Wellington, and meet business leaders in Auckland together with his New Zealand counterpart during his visit to the country on March 26-29.
The visit marks the 45th year of diplomatic relations between China and New Zealand, and comes three years after China and New Zealand formed a comprehensive strategic partnership during a visit to New Zealand by President Xi Jinping.
China is New Zealand’s second-largest trading partner after Australia.
Two-way trade reached an all-time high of 23 billion NZ dollars ($16.19 billion) last year and more than 400,000 Chinese tourists visited New Zealand.