New Zealand to sign free trade agreement with China

March 30th, 2008 - 8:39 pm ICT by admin  

Wellington, March 30 (DPA) New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark has said her government would sign a “comprehensive” and “high quality” free-trade agreement with China April 7, according to reports Sunday. Clark told New Zealand’s political television programme Agenda that she and her Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao would witness ministers sign the agreement in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing and added that she would also raise the issue of Beijing’s treatment of Tibetan protesters.

Clark confirmed that the agreement would allow some specialist Chinese workers, such as chefs or Chinese medical practitioners, to work in New Zealand.

She also said China had committed to a phased reduction of agricultural tariffs.

But Clark told the programme that she could not provide further details ahead of the April 7 signing.

Clark said China valued the free trade agreement with New Zealand in part because it provided a “template” the Asian power could use in future negotiations.

The agreement also “showed strategically that it [China] can have these high quality arrangements with a Western country,” Clark said. Two-way trade between China and New Zealand - one of the most liberalized Western economies in the world - is currently worth more than 4.8 billion New Zealand dollars ($3.8 billion) a year.

Clark also told the television programme Agenda that she would raise China’s treatment of Tibet directly with Wen. She would be the first Western leader to directly raise Tibet with the Chinese premier since the riots in the Tibetan capital Lhasa more than a fortnight ago.

She told Agenda she would not question the status of Tibet within China, but “I will raise it as an issue of how human rights can be respected in the country.”

One minister in Clark’s multi-party government has declined the prime minister’s invitation to witness the signing on April 7 because of China’s recent actions against Tibet.

But Clark said that trade allowed New Zealand greater access to the Chinese authorities and enabled the country to express its concerns over human rights.

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