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China and New Zealand signed FTA upgrade protocol
【2021-02-09】

On January 26th, 2021, Wang Wentao, China’s Commerce Minister, and Damien O’Connor, New Zealand’s Minister for Trade and Export Growth, held a virtual meeting to sign the Protocol on Upgrading the Free Trade Agreement between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of New Zealand.

Minister Wang Wentao noted that in his special address at the Davos Agenda of the World Economic Forum, President Xi Jinping pointed out that we should stay open and inclusive, and reject closeness and exclusion, and that China is committed to institutional openness of rules, regulation, management, and standards. The Upgrade Protocol is a specific action to practice multilateralism and build an open world economy, and an important measure to implement the FTA upgrading strategy.

The Upgrade Protocol will promote deeper and practical cooperation between the two sides across all sectors, benefit the businesses and people from both sides, and enrich and substantiate the China-New Zealand comprehensive strategic partnership. At this crucial moment to fight COVID-19, signing the Upgrade Protocol also sends a positive message to the international community that the two countries will work together to cope with the pandemic and support multilateralism and free trade.

The Upgrade Protocol is a step further than RCEP. The main provisions are as follows: in trade in goods, markets for timber and paper products are opened; rules covering rules of origin, technical barriers, and customs facilitation are further optimized. In trade in services, building on RCEP, China has opened up aviation, education, finance, elderly care, and passenger transport to New Zealand. In the work permits for special professions, New Zealand has doubled the quota for mandarin teachers and Chinese tourists to 300 and 200, professions that receive most applications from Chinese citizens. In investment, New Zealand has eased the screening threshold for investment from China, and has committed to apply the same threshold to Chinese investment as to other CPTPP members. In terms of rule-making, the two sides committed to reinforce cooperation in areas like e-commerce, competition policy, government procurement, environment and trade. The chapter on trade and environment has gone beyond RCEP, in that it contains high-standard articles on environmental protection, environmental law enforcement, and implementation of multilateral environment conventions.

After signing the Upgrade Protocol, the two sides will proceed with domestic procedures so that the upgraded China-New Zealand FTA can come into effect early.

China-New Zealand FTA was signed and in April 2008 and became effective on October 1st, 2008. In November 2016, the two sides launched the negotiations to upgrade the FTA. In November 2019, the two sides announced conclusion of the upgrade negotiations.