China, New Zealand Sign Free Trade Pact

New Zealand will abolish all tariffs on imports from China by 2016 and China will scrap tariffs on most imports from New Zealand by 2019.

New Zealand signed a free-trade agreement with China on April 7, making it the first developed economy to enter such a pact with the China, officials said. The agreement, which will eventually all but eliminate tariffs between the two nations, will also have positive effects in other areas, said New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who attended the signing ceremony in Beijing.

The agreement came after 15 rounds of negotiations stretching back nearly four years and despite some criticism of Clark for pushing ahead with the pact during China's crackdown on unrest in Tibet.

New Zealand has committed itself to abolishing all tariffs imposed on imports from China by January 1, 2016, the Chinese ministry of commerce said.

China will scrap tariffs on 97.2% of imports from New Zealand by January 1, 2019, according to the commerce ministry. When the deal comes into force, tariffs for 63.6% of products imported to New Zealand from China and 24.3% of imports into China from New Zealand will be cut to zero, the ministry said.

"By reducing barriers to trade in goods, services and investment in China, the FTA will give New Zealand businesses a distinct advantage over competitors into that market," said New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff.

Two-way trade between the two nations hit 7.5 billion New Zealand dollars (US$5.9 billion) in 2007, according to official estimates from Auckland.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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