New Zealand foreign minister opposes China trade pact

April 8th, 2008 - 2:42 pm ICT by admin  

Wellington, April 8 (DPA) New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said Tuesday he would vote against a free trade pact with China that the government signed in Beijing this week because there was “simply not enough in the deal for this country.” Peters said his nationalist New Zealand First party’s seven members of parliament decided to reject the agreement after reviewing details of it at a caucus meeting.

The move would not affect the deal as the main conservative opposition National Party has agreed to support the Labour Party-led coalition in passing legislation to enact the agreement.

Quirky New Zealand politics enables Peters to take the unusual position as foreign minister of rejecting what observers have called Prime Minister Helen Clark’s most significant foreign policy initiative since she took office in 1999.

Ten other legislators, from the Green and Maori parties, have also come out against the agreement, which Clark has called a “significant achievement” with potential to expand New Zealand exports to China by up to $280 million a year.

But Peters criticized the pact, saying the timing of gradual cuts in import duties to create free trade was weighted heavily in favour of China.

The farm sector was the one New Zealand industry that could bridge the huge trade deficit with China but the Chinese would not drop all its restrictions on that trade for up to 17 years, Peters said.

“Given that China has effectively had half a free trade agreement with New Zealand for the past 20 years, we could have expected more from them,” he said.

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