China and New Zealand yesterday signed a free trade agreement (FTA) covering trade in goods and services as well as investment.
The agreement was signed in Beijing by Commerce Minister Chen Deming and his New Zealand counterpart Phil Goff in the presence of Premier Wen Jiabao and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.
"The signing of the agreement not only means that we have met the goal set two years ago for our economic relations, but also makes New Zealand the first developed country to reach the FTA with China," Wen said ahead of the signing ceremony.
According to the pact, New Zealand will remove tariffs on 63.6 percent of imports from China as soon as the FTA takes effect; and duties on all imports will be eliminated by Jan 1, 2016.
China will apply zero tariff on 24.3 percent of imports from New Zealand when the FTA takes effect; and remove tariffs on almost all goods imported from the country by Jan 1, 2019.
Calling the signing a "historic" moment, Clark said the FTA lays a more solid foundation for collaboration and has become another pillar of bilateral relations.
Two-way trade totaled $3.7 billion in 2007, up 26 percent from a year earlier, according to official figures.
Besides reducing trade barriers, the FTA will also promote exchanges in a broad range of economic areas, a spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce said in a statement.
New Zealand will grant preferential treatment to Chinese businesses dealing with service trade in 16 categories across four sectors, including business, architecture and education. China has made a similar commitment in 15 categories across four sectors, such as the environment and transportation.
The spokesman said the New Zealand government is also expected to provide up to 1,800 work permits for skilled Chinese in specialized fields such as traditional medicine, language teaching, and cuisine.
The pact was inked after 15 rounds of negotiations over three years; and New Zealand is also the first developed country to recognize China's full market economy status.
China has FTAs with countries such as Chile and Pakistan and is in talks with nations such as Australia and Iceland.
Source: China Daily