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NZ risks further trade isolation without action

Dr Hon Lockwood Smith MP National Party Trade Spokesman

20 August 2003

NZ risks further trade isolation without action

National Party Trade Spokesman Lockwood Smith says Trade Minister Jim Sutton should be exploring a free trade agreement with China.

"Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in China this week, is expected to push for China to consider a free trade agreement with Australia. This comes on the heels of Australia beating New Zealand to negotiate a free trade agreement with the United States.

"There should be real urgency around New Zealand's push for a trade agreement with China. At present our FTA with Hong Kong is stalled over issues relating to rules of origin. The main issue there is product largely manufactured in China being exported via Hong Kong and failing to meet normal rules of origin criteria."

Dr Smith says the easiest way to solve that problem is to explore a free trade agreement with China itself.

"The Hong Kong issues then largely disappear.

"New Zealand, under a National-led government, was the first country in the world to sign China up to the World Trade Organisation. The then Chinese Trade Minister, Madam Wu Yi, is still very senior in the Chinese Government. We are respected on trade issues and have an excellent opportunity to advance such an agreement."

Dr Smith says that if Labour shows its usual bumbling on international issues, there's a grave danger New Zealand could be left behind Australia, not only in terms of a trade agreement with the United States, but also a trade agreement with China.

"It's hard to imagine any worse scenario than that," Dr Smith says.


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