Chinese and New Zealand officials should make solid progress at the 10th round of China - New Zealand FTA (free trade area) negotiations, which began yesterday, New Zealand's ambassador in Beijing said.
Over 30 negotiators from New Zealand are attending the week-long talks.
"The talks have entered a substantive stage. They will get further and further into the negotiations, and good progress is expected," said ambassador Tony Browne. "The more discussions they have, the more agreements on a high-quality FTA they reach."
Since November 2004 when the FTA talks began, nine rounds of negotiations have been held. Browne predicted they would be finished "within timeframe," and probably "earlier than April 2008 as planned."
In April 2006 when Premier Wen Jiabao met New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, a consensus was reached to establish "a comprehensive, high-quality, balanced and mutually acceptable FTA" within two years.
"This means the FTA agreements should try to cover as many areas as possible and bring all-around positive changes to both nations," Browne said.
However, this process is "demanding, time-consuming, and is difficult to work through" due to the negotiations covering not only trade in goods but also in terms of services and investment.
The situation is similar to that of the ongoing China-Australia FTA talks, which also cover these three areas, but faces difficulties on agreements for the service and agricultural sectors.
Fortunately, "ours is less complex than the China-Australia one," Browne said. "New Zealand is a much smaller economy. There are many sectors that are significant to Australia, yet not that important to New Zealand."
"The agriculture industry, particularly the dairy-producing sector, is the major one which gave rise to a lot of arguments," he said.
New Zealand is one of the largest dairy producers in the world, and a common fear is that a liberalized market would place Chinese dairy producers at a disadvantage.
However, the ambassador said there were many reasons to believe New Zealand players would not force anyone out of the China market.
"China's dairy producers, like Mengniu and Sanlu, are more and more competitive, they are developing into global brands thanks to good management and high quality, and New Zealand's export volume to China is still small and there is low likelihood of an influx of exports after the removal of tariffs," he said.
(China Daily January 30, 2007)