logo 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
Photo: Colt International Limited / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The problem of preferential trade with larger partners
Chinese repression of Tibetan dissidents has pushed the issue of the impending Free Trade Agreement between New Zealand and the Peoples Republic of China back into the news. In a diplomatic sidestep both Helen Clark and John Key claim that events in Tibet have nothing to do with free trade. Perhaps that is true, but there are other issues to consider.
Pressure on PM over China
Violent protests in Tibet have come at a very awkward time for the New Zealand government with Prime Minister Helen Clark about to sign a free trade deal with China. While other government’s around the world were quick to condemn China’s violent response to Tibetan protests, Clark was hesitant for most of Monday, saying she did not have enough information.
Locke says govt cannot sign FTA
A Green MP says New Zealand cannot sign a free trade agreement with China while it continues to suppress Tibetan people.
Govt pledges wage safety on trade deal
The Government has pledged that its free-trade deal with China will not threaten the wages and conditions of New Zealand workers.
Govt commits to putting FTA to parliamentary vote
New Zealand Green Party MP Keith Locke has welcomed the Government’s commitment in the House today to put the free trade agreement with China, to be signed in April, to a Parliamentary vote.
Stop the secrecy on NZ-China trade treaty
"This trade deal may have a bigger impact on New Zealand than most other government actions this year. Yet the public and parliament are still in the dark about its content only five weeks before it will be signed," says Trade Spokesperson and Green Co-leader Dr. Russel Norman.
NZ-China trade pact on track for April
New Zealand and China are still planning to sign a trade deal in April, though final agreement on the detail is yet to be reached.
Clark set to sign deal with China
New Zealand is poised to sign a trade deal with powerhouse economy China, in what is being touted as our biggest trade breakthrough in 25 years.
Guyana and Indonesia sign reciprocal trade agreement
Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Dr Henry Jeffrey and Indonesia’s Ambassador to Guyana, Suprijanto Muhadi on Wednesday signed an agreement on the promotion and protection of investments in the two countries.
Devil in the detail of FTA
Once the brouhaha dies down and cabinet ministers pass through the self-congratulatory phase, the hard questions will start over just how good a deal the New Zealand Government has got with China on behalf of New Zealand businesses and farmers.