On 7 April 2008, New Zealand and China signed a comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement. It was the first bilateral FTA that Beijing signed with a so-called developed country. It entered into force on 1 October 2008.
The NZ-China FTA has raised a number of concerns among New Zealanders, especially relating to:
weak food safety and environmental standards behind China’s agricultural exports to NZ, which are bound to multiply because of the deal;
the labour conditions and lack of rights that Chinese workers are subject to, which the FTA does not address;
China’s broader human rights record, including the repression in Tibet;
the ability of Chinese corporations to now sue the New Zealand government if it were to restrict, in any way, Chinese trade or investment on grounds relating to labour rights, environmental standards or health concerns; and
the inability of New Zealand’s fruit and vegetable producers to compete with the influx of Chinese imports, given the lower wages in their production costs.
A number of New Zealand business groups eager to expand operations in China were happy with the deal, of course. One of these was Fonterra, New Zealand’s largest company and the third largest dairy exporter on the planet. Fonterra took advantage of the agreement to buy up Chinese dairy companies and further build its business in the mainland. But when the melamine milk scandal broke in September 2008 and the public learned that Fonterra — which owned 43% of Sanlu, the first Chinese company linked to the milk — knew of the contamination months before but never said anything, the recriminations came pouring in. (More than 300,000 people fell ill and six infants died of kidney failure as a result of the contamination. And by the end of 2008, Sanlu went bankrupt.)
last update: May 2012
The deal shows “the gate on the New Zealand-China free trade agreement swings both ways,” a Federated Farmers official said. Natural Dairy, formerly China Jin Hui Mining Corporation, agreed to buy four farms in New Zealand and is in talks for 24 more as part of a NZ$1.5bn (US$1.1bn) expansion in the world’s biggest dairy exporter.
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Recent talks made progress toward a free trade agreement with Asian countries, Trade Minister Tim Groser told Parliament on Tuesday.
The Fonterra scandal in China has evolved into a major food crisis. "We are seeing the reality of free trade in action, the negatives that have been concealed by the greed and arrogance of Government and private business interests," says the New Zealand Alliance Party
New Zealand’s dairy giant Fonterra is caught up in the latest food scandal in China as the contaminated milk powder crisis reveals weeks of delay before the public was informed. NZ Green Party co-leader Russel Norman said “We signed up for a free trade agreement with no rules around environment or health, and so we are exposing ourselves and our companies to these types of scandals.”
Trade Minister Phil Goff says the passing in Parliament today of the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement Bill will bring the FTA into force on 1 October and represents an historic advance in New Zealand’s trading relationships.
How is it that in a land with such a shameful history of exclusion and institutional racism against the Chinese, the NZ Government is suddenly bending over backwards to become party to a free trade agreement with China?, the Maori Party asks
New Zealand’s free-trade agreement with China contains hidden hooks that could seriously damage the country’s tourism, building and manufacturing industries.
The number of no votes, have outnumbered the yes votes in submissions on the government’s Free Trade Agreement with China.