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Premier Li announces FTA upgrade talks with New Zealand among slew of new deals

Talks on the highest level of bilateral free trade agreement between China and a developed country, New Zealand in this case, will be carried out, sending a positive signal to the world that the two countries are committed to free trade, said Premier Li Keqiang in Wellington, New Zealand.

Premier Li made the remarks on March 27 during his four-day visit to New Zealand, following his Australian trip.

Visiting Premier Li was welcomed to New Zealand’s Government House by Prime Minister Bill English this morning, after arriving in Wellington last night.

The two held talks to discuss trade and other issues.

Cooperation deals signed off

They also witnessed the signing of a series of cooperation deals spanning trade, customs, travel and climate change and confirmed the commencement of official talks on an upgrade to the nine-year old free-trade agreement between the two countries.

Official talks to upgrade the existing FTA between the nations will start on April 25 with a goal of building on the deal that’s seen two-way trade triple to 23 billion dollars since it came into force in 2008.

The meeting also saw 21 other agreements signed, including a six-month trial for ten local meat processors to sell chilled meat to China for the first time, a new air services agreement to increase the number of direct flights between the countries from 9 to 59, the adoption of a Climate Change Action Plan, and a cooperation pact on the Belt and Road Initiative which makes New Zealand the first country among Western developed countries to sign such an agreement.

The inking of the agreement on the Belt and Road Initiative should mean substantial Chinese investment in various infrastructure projects in New Zealand, including rail, road, and technology.

The Belt and Road Initiative aims to create major land, maritime and virtual technological transport corridors around the world.

The pact would substantially enhance New Zealand’s road, rail, and digital infrastructure, linking Whangarei to Northport and Marsden Point and Marsden Point.

Premier Li meets the press

At a news conference, Premier Li pointed out that, “The FTA upgrade negotiations between China and Newland will give a strong boost to the two countries’ trade links.”

Opening up wider is good for free trade, Li noted, adding that, China has a trade deficit with New Zealand, but China does not see this as a negative factor.

China is expanding the two way trade with the island nation, and in this process, there can be some differences, but the two will adopt a prudent and objective approach and pursue two-way dialogues and consultations to properly handle the differences, Li asserted.

“We are committed to upholding stability and peace in the Asia Pacific, particularly at a time when the backlash against globalization and free trade is on the rise. We can have more consultations to avoid frictions.”

When asked about so-called steel dumping, Premier Li responded, “Ninety percent of steel products in China were used domestically, but there was a global oversupply of iron and steel, and China, from last year, has been phasing out outdated production capacities of over 60 million tons of iron.”

“Five percent of New Zealand’s zinc-coated steel came from China, but half of China’s dairy products were from New Zealand,” he added.

“China is not dumping steel products in New Zealand. Likewise, 50 percent of China’s dairy product imports are from New Zealand but we haven’t said New Zealand is dumping dairy products in China.”

On the South China Sea, Premier Li said China’s Belt and Road Initiative was aiming to create a new maritime silk road.

“This 21st century silk road will go through the South China Sea. Stability and peace in the South China Sea are good for all countries in the area.”

“All sides believe negotiations are the way out, and negotiations between China and all other parties involved are going smoothly,” Li added.

“Each year there are over 100,000 ships going through these waters with no incidents of pirate attacks, and this in itself shows South China Sea countries have the wisdom and capability to manage and resolve their differences. We welcome all countries and international organizations joining efforts to enhance connectivity.”