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Clark: New Zealand – China FTA Dinner

Monday, 7 April 2008
7.00pm China, 11.00pm New Zealand

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at dinner
to celebrate the signing of the New Zealand – China FTA


Sofitel Hotel
Jianguo Rd, Beijing

7.00 pm
Monday, 7 April 2008

It’s a great pleasure to welcome you all to this evening’s event, and to be able to reciprocate the hospitality of the Chinese Government to our delegation. This evening’s event will include a performance by talented New Zealand artists and the sharing of New Zealand food and wine.

We have good cause to celebrate. Earlier today New Zealand and China reached a new milestone in our relationship, with the signing of a Free Trade Agreement. New Zealand is the first developed country to sign an FTA with China. This marks the most important development in our relationship since we established diplomatic ties in 1972.

This Free Trade Agreement also represents one of the most important outcomes for the international trade calendar this year. The agreement sets a high standard. It is a model for how two trading partners, disparate in size but complementary in the products and services they offer, can take a trading relationship to a new level.

Last year New Zealand and China marked 35 years of diplomatic relations. The agreement we have signed today sets us up for a productive further 35 years.

More than twenty years ago, I chaired an inquiry by the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the New Zealand Parliament into New Zealand-China relations. Our report concluded that while a lot had been achieved between us, the relationship remained “promising.”

That was a cautious prognosis. But at that time China’s economic reforms were only at a nascent stage, and the immense changes to global and regional economies we’ve seen over the past two decades were not anticipated.

Total trade between New Zealand and China in 1986 amounted to NZ$313 million, compared to a figure of over NZ$7.5 billion today.

What our Parliamentary committee stressed in 1986 was that for New Zealand to develop its relationship with China, “long term commitment” was required.

We said that “fly by night approaches simply will not pay off”, and that only a “sustained effort over time” would take the relationship forward. We got that right !

Commitment and sustained effort has underlined the Free Trade Agreement negotiations between New Zealand and China. These negotiations commenced in December 2004, as part of our wider Trade and Economic Co-operation Framework.

In April 2006 when Premier Wen Jiabao came to New Zealand, we agreed that our negotiators should seek an FTA which was high quality, comprehensive, balanced, and delivered mutually beneficial results.

As you will see in the agreement signed today, our requirements have been met. I thank especially the lead negotiators David Walker and Zhang Shaogang, both of whom are with us tonight, and the many other officials who contributed to the negotiations.

The objective all along has been to reduce and remove barriers to trade, thereby creating opportunities for our businesses to grow their links in each other’s markets.

Today with the signing of the FTA, we are able to announce its full details. There is a lot of information to digest. In New Zealand we will be seeking to work closely with a wide range of stakeholders, to ensure that all are aware of what the agreement involves.

A dedicated website is now operating, providing comprehensive detail on both the content of the FTA and on doing business with China. The website includes significant Chinese language content. A series of road shows are scheduled in New Zealand from late May. Our New Zealand missions here in China also have a busy programme of activities. Trade Minister Phil Goff and Education Minister Chris Carter will start our China promotions later this week in Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province.

I have been joined here in Beijing by what I understand is the largest delegation ever from New Zealand. Approximately 240 people have travelled from New Zealand to be here for this historic occasion, representing government, companies, business organisations, local government, media, and other institutions. Businesses represented range from our dairy giant Fonterra, the largest New Zealand exporter to China, to many dynamic small and medium-sized enterprises which have established niches here in the Chinese market.
Representatives based in China of New Zealand companies are also with us tonight.

I acknowledge again the presence of a pioneer of the New Zealand-China economic relationship, Vic Percival. Vic began trading with the People’s Republic of China more than 50 years ago, and first visited this country in 1957. His contributions to trade between us have been recognised by the governments of both China and New Zealand. Vic is celebrating his 79th birthday tomorrow. I am sure, on this occasion, he’ll be happy to celebrate it in Beijing !

Nearly half of the New Zealand business delegation represented here this evening are Chinese New Zealanders. This group includes Donald and Jennie Sew Hoy whose forebears arrived in New Zealand in 1869, to recent migrants from China. Your role as a bridge between China and New Zealand is a vital one, as is the contribution New Zealand’s Chinese communities have made to our society and economy.

Mayors Bob Parker and John Forbes represent another important strand in the New Zealand-China nexus – that of our sister-city relationships.

Both of them are leading delegations to their sister cities while here. Mayor John Banks will also be visiting Auckland’s sister city of Guangzhou with a combined civic and business delegation later this month.

We have with us this evening a large number of Chinese friends, including many business leaders. Thank you for your commitment to our trade relationship. I know you will work with us to maximise the potential of the FTA signed today.

Education Minister Chris Carter is with us in Beijing because of the prominent role education plays in the New Zealand-China relationship. Many tens of thousands of Chinese students have come to New Zealand

Last year saw the establishment of a New Zealand Studies Centre at Peking University, with the University of Auckland playing a leading role.

In conclusion, thank you once again to our Chinese guests and to all who have travelled from New Zealand for being with us this evening. Please now relax and enjoy this special event to celebrate the signing of the FTA. And let us all leave here with a commitment to make the most of the potential that the FTA presents to both our countries. We have an exciting time ahead.


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