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New Zealand-China

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


NZ-China FTA - Full of human rights promises but no substance
Amnesty International has made a second submission on the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Bill highlighting ongoing concerns about the lack of practical applications to ensure labour standards are addressed and improved in China. And this within an agreement that significantly weakens New Zealand’s labour rights obligations.
Fonterra in $300m deal after China trade agreement
Fonterra has scored the first big windfall from the Government’s free-trade pact with China, signing a deal worth more than $300 million.
Tempers flare as China free trade deal debated
Tempers became frayed on Thursday as NZ Parliament’s foreign affairs, defence and trade committee heard submissions on New Zealand’s Free Trade Deal with China.
Future of food: Free trade with China
Many fruit and vegetable growers in New Zealand are concerned the free trade agreement (FTA) with China will mean a further blow to an industry already hit by imports and rising production costs.
Other trade talks speeded-up by NZ-China FTA
The free trade deal with China and mounting concern about securing food supplies are helping New Zealand in its efforts to secure agreements with major Asian economies, Radio New Zealand reported on Tuesday.
Green party voices concerns over FTA
Bilateral agreements such as New Zealand’s free trade agreement with China threaten the right of democratically-elected governments to regulate to protect the environment or people’s safety, Green Party co-leader Russel Norman told a parliamentary select committee today.
Textile Union Welcomes Tariff Freeze
Today’s announcement by Commerce Minister, Lianne Dalziel, of a freeze on general tariff reductions for two years from July 2009 has been welcomed by the National Distribution Union. The NDU represents workers in the textile, clothing and footwear industries.
US trade expert finds fishhooks in FTA
While media coverage of the China-NZ Free Trade Agreement has focused almost entirely on the possible dollar gains, scant attention has been paid to the equally valid exposure of New Zealand to compensation claims — should any NZ government be so bold in future as to pass laws or regulations that a foreign investor feels will impact on profitability.
Handled with tact, FTAs can do what WTO can’t
On April 7, China and New Zealand signed a free trade agreement (FTA) covering trade in goods and services as well as investment, making it the first FTA reached by China with a developed country.
Free trade agreement not to blame - Cullen
The Government was stung by suggestions yesterday that its much vaunted free trade agreement with China was linked to the loss of 430 jobs in Fisher and Paykel’s Mosgiel dishdrawer plant and hit back at the company.