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Taking a Bite out of Belt and Road Opportunities

A joint commitment by China and New Zealand to support the Belt and Road Initiative was marked by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the Chinese official’s state visit in March 2017.

The MoU was one of 13 agreements inked between the two countries during which time other areas of discussion included the streamlining of customs-clearance procedures, educational exchanges, fishery quotas and food exports.

Deeper Cooperation

Speaking after the signing of the MoU, Mr Li pledged to explore the possibility of greater cooperation between the two countries on infrastructure development and increased trade. One of the first signs of this enhanced relationship will be an increase of imports of New Zealand beef and lamb to the Chinese mainland, while China in turn will expand its range of vegetable exports to its upgraded trading partner.

Welcoming both developments, Mr Li said, "We are expanding our imports of New Zealand beef and lamb in order to give Chinese consumers a greater choice of high-quality produce. At the same time, we welcome the opportunity to export more onions to New Zealand."

The two leaders also discussed regional stability and free trade, while several other cultural and business matters were also on the agenda. In particular, the two leaders confirmed plans for negotiations to upgrade the existing China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement.

The current agreement has been in place for nine years and is said to have considerably boosted bilateral trade between the two parties. In particular, it has led to New Zealand supplying 50 per cent of China's imported dairy products. In the new round of negotiations, several food-safety issues are said to be high on the agenda.

Addressing the importance of the current round of negotiations, Mr Li said, "With protectionism and anti-trade liberalisation sentiments on the rise around the world, it is incumbent upon us to send a clear message, backed up by positive actions, when it comes to safeguarding free trade and the process of economic globalisation. In line with this, the planned upgrade of the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement is crucial for both countries, as well as the wider region and the international community as a whole."

In line with the enhanced cooperation between the two countries, New Zealand also announced plans to issue five-year multi-entry visas to qualified mainland applicants. These new visas will entitle holders to stay in New Zealand for up to one month at a time.

Mr Li's visit to the country marked the first official visit to New Zealand by a Chinese Premier in 11 years.

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