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China-NZ: Opportunities beckon through trade door

New Zealand Herald, Auckland

Opportunities beckon through trade door

2 September 2004


China needs to secure a supply of natural resources and that’s where a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with New Zealand comes in, Chinese Ambassador Chen Mingming says.

He told delegates at the Gateway to China trade summit in Auckland yesterday there could be losers as well as winners from the FTA. Issues had to be resolved for farmers in China and the garment industry in New Zealand.

But he said that just two years ago no one would have believed a free trade deal between New Zealand and China was possible. Today, the two countries were faced with a historic opportunity to forge an agreement that would dramatically boost trade and benefit all involved.

China was already Fonterra’s fourth biggest market and New Zealand’s dairy product sales to China were doubling every three years.

With an FTA, there was no reason dairy sales might not double every two years and China could jump to second or third on Fonterra’s list of top markets.

Chen was one of a host of senior diplomats, politicians, business leaders and academics making presentations at the summit.

Hosted by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, the conference attracted 500 business people anxious to learn more about the opportunities and risks of trading and investing in the world’s fastest growing economy.

Asia specialist Charles Goddard, from The Economist Intelligent Unit, warned of the need to recognise that China was not a ready-made market of 1.3 billion people.

Despite dramatic economic growth figures - nearly 10 per cent last year - China’s economy was actually equivalent to a medium sized European nation such as Spain.

Per capita GDP is still less than $2000.

But the country had more than 100 million middle class consumers, something no globally focused country could afford to ignore.

China had overtaken France as the sixth largest car market and research showed 90 per cent of multinationals had a China strategy.