Upgrading our free trade agreement with China

PM-Headshot-20115-300x267Prime Minister Weekly Column

As a small island nation, New Zealand can’t get rich selling things to ourselves. If we want to continue to diversify and grow our economy, we have to back our exporters and continue to open doors to the rest of the world. This was the goal last week when I was in Peru for the APEC Leaders’ Meeting.

APEC is 21 countries and economies from around the world including China, the United States, Korea and Russia that get together every 12 months to talk about the issues and opportunities facing the Asia Pacific Region. The big topic of conversation at this year’s meeting was trade. I had a number of positive discussions with leaders from other countries about how we can ………. forge closer trading relationships with them. During the trip, I was able to announce with China that we were launching negotiations to upgrade the New Zealand – China Free Trade Agreement. This will be an opportunity to deepen and broaden our trading relationship, creating more opportunities for our exporters. I welcomed the commitment to an upgrade along with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

New Zealand was the first developed country to negotiate and conclude a free trade agreement with China. It has been eight years since that agreement came into force and it has exceeded all expectations. New Zealand’s goods exports to China have quadrupled, reaching $9.2 billion, and services exports have tripled, reaching $3 billion. China is now New Zealand’s second-largest goods and services export market and our largest export destination for goods.The negotiations will look to improve or enhance the broad range of areas already covered by the free trade agreement.

Back home, it’s now been more than two weeks since the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck. I’m immensely proud of the way local communities and support services have operated since then, particularly in the upper South Island where the earthquake was centred and its impact most pronounced. I’ve visited Kaikoura and the wider regionthree times since the earthquake struck, where I met local people, and saw first-hand the damage the earthquake had caused. As Prime Minister, I’m committed to standing alongside those people and communities hardest-hit by the earthquake and we will provide whatever support they need over the coming days, weeks and months. The Government has announced a tax relief and support package for earthquake-affected business, which will help those companies most disrupted by the earthquakes to keep their staff. We’ve also announced a support package for the primary sector and a fisheries research package. People should take great confidence in the fact the economy is in good shape, the Government’s books are in good order and we have the capacity to deal with this earthquake. We’ll need to put things back together again, and we will.