bilaterals.org logo
bilaterals.org logo

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


NZers raise concerns over free trade with China at global rights event
Christchurch supporters of the Human Rights Torch Relay are asking how New Zealand can consider a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China — a regime facing allegations of large-scale genocide and organ harvesting.
China trade deal on track for April - Clark
New Zealand is on track to complete a "high quality and comprehensive" free trade deal with China by April next year, Prime Minister Helen Clark says. For China, "it’s not so much a question of what they agree with New Zealand . . . It’s a question of what that then means for negotiations with the European Union or the United States down the track" she added.
Chinese wall on free trade
New Zealand negotiators are gearing up for final talks in Wellington, where vital trade-offs will be made so that a deal can be signed with China at top political level before the end of next April.
Amnesty: NZ too scared to push rights with China
New Zealand negotiators have been accused of being ’too scared’ to bring up human rights with China’s communist officials during free trade discussions.
NZ-China trade deal said 2 years away
New Zealand hopes to wrap up a comprehensive free trade agreement with China by mid-2009 — a year later than scheduled — Prime Minister Helen Clark said Tuesday.
NZ leads race to China trade deal
Rows of container cranes dominate the hazy skyline of Yantian. The port, in China’s southern Guangdong province, is the world’s fourth busiest - despite few New Zealanders probably even having heard of it.
Labour sacrifices free speech for trade deal
Last night’s exclusion of an accredited journalist from a Beehive photo opportunity with the Michael Cullen and the Deputy Premier of China Zeng Peiyan, because Chinese officials thought the journalist was a “problem”, shows that the Government is so desperate for a trade deal with China that it will sacrifice free speech in New Zealand to get it, says the Green Party.
Clark: NZ glad to promote FTA agreement with China
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Tuesday New Zealand is willing to promote a free trade agreement with China as early as possible.
NZ on track to sign FTA with China
New Zealand remains on track to be the first developed state to sign a free trade agreement (FTA) with China after completing a "business end" round of talks, a senior official said today.
China, New Zealand ends ninth round FTA talks
China and New Zealand have made further progress toward establishing a Free Trade Area (FTA) during the ninth round of negotiations held in Wellington, New Zealand, between Oct. 9-14.