The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will usher in fresh opportunities for services trade and investment between China and New Zealand, augmenting buoyant bilateral trade relations, Wellington”s top diplomat to Beijing said.
The signing on Sunday of the world’s largest free-trade deal－taking in 15 Asia-Pacific countries, including China and New Zealand-“helps to put the signatories in a better position to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and seize new opportunities for exports and investment”, New Zealand Ambassador to China Clare Fearnley said.
“Signing a significant regional trade agreement such as RCEP helps to show support for international trade rules, which small and large countries alike benefit from. This is particularly important at a time of economic turbulence and when we’re seeing increasing protectionism,” she said.
The pact is expected to provide fresh impetus to trade and investment among the RCEP members, as well as between New Zealand and China, which has been the top trading partner of the South Pacific nation since 2017.
Last year, 23 percent of New Zealand’s goods and services exports and 16 percent of imports were with China. Two-way trade in goods and services with China was worth $23.1 billion in 2019, with exports at $13.9 billion and imports $9.2 billion, according to the New Zealand government.
Fearnley notes that the two nations concluded negotiations on an upgrade to their free-trade agreement, “to make sure that the FTA continues to reflect the modern realities of the bilateral trading relationship”.
“We look forward to signing the FTA upgrade and to it entering into force, which will be beneficial for both New Zealand and China, as well as an important signal of the commitment we both share to a rules-based, open trading system,” she said.
The envoy said she has looked with interest at China’s plans for economic growth and development over the next five years.
“Given the scale of China’s economy, the direction and policies being set are very significant beyond China－in the regional and global economy,” she said.”With the challenges facing the world at the moment, it is encouraging to see China’s economy still forecast to grow in 2020－one of the few large economies to do so.”
She said a recent announcement by President Xi Jinping that China would reach a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2060 is also welcomed by New Zealand.
“We look forward to seeing ambitious action from China in the next five years to set China on this path,” she said. “We hope to see developments such as an early cap on total carbon emissions when the upcoming 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) for climate change is released, and are encouraged by the message that China will be reducing reliance on coal power.”
With both China and New Zealand having achieved remarkable progress in containing the pandemic, Fearnley expressed the hope that people-to-people exchanges can be resumed once the situation permits this.
“Pre-COVID, China was New Zealand’s second-largest source of visitors and largest source of international students and we are looking forward to a time when we can safely welcome visitors and students back－and when people movement more generally will be freed up again,” she said.