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Asia First - but not Asia First and Last

PRESS RELEASE 14 April 2004

Asia First - but not Asia First and Last

“We congratulate the Government on today’s announcement that New Zealand will be scoping out a Closer Economic Partnership negotiation with the People’s Republic of China” said Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Philip Lewin.

“For many years China has been an increasingly important market for New Zealand’s goods and services. Already a global economic powerhouse, China is projected to become the world’s largest economy at some point this century. It therefore makes very good strategic sense to enter into this negotiation now.”

“This will be the first CEP negotiation China has approached with another sovereign nation. Both in terms of improved market access and greater certainty surrounding our bilateral trade with China, New Zealand stands to gain enormously from a successful outcome.”

“What we are embarking on here will indeed be a negotiation - as opposed to the immediate and unilateral removal of New Zealand’s few remaining tariffs, particularly in the textile, clothing and footwear area” Mr Lewin continued.

“There will doubtless be many twists and turns along the way before a mutually satisfactory deal is hammered out. Chamber member businesses up and down New Zealand will be looking to our Government negotiators to bargain for the very best package of access improvements and entitlements into China, as the end product of this negotiation. “

“Needless to say, our members won’t be impressed by any “Claytons” agreement in which little changes for Kiwi exporters” Mr Lewin added.

“To reiterate – the prospect of a CEP with China is enormously attractive and should be pursued with full vigor – and by a properly resourced negotiating team fully supported by Government, and by business in the wider community.”

“At the same time, let’s not forget that New Zealand is far too small to put all its eggs in any one basket.”

“We’ve got to keep mounting an unwavering effort at the WTO to get a big global trade outcome from the Doha Round. Likewise, we should be pursuing all our opportunities in the Asia-Pacific region, not only with China but also of course the USA, Thailand, Chile and all other potential partners.”

“Today’s announcement should be celebrated by everybody who cares about New Zealand’s future prosperity. At the same time, we should stay mindful of the old New Zealand trade policy adage “Asia First – but not Asia First and Last”, Mr Lewin concluded.

ENDS

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