At the invitation of New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, Premier Li Keqiang will pay an official visit to New Zealand from March 26 to 29. This will be the first visit to New Zealand paid by a Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China in 11 years, and the first New Zealand visit of Premier Li Keqiang since taking office. On the eve of the visit, China’s Ambassador to New Zealand, Wang Lutong was interviewed by the media, including the Xinhua News Agency, the People's Daily, The Economic Daily, the Central People's Broadcasting Station, Phoenix Television, the New Zealand Chinese Herald and the Oceania Chinese TV Station, to outline Premier Li Keqiang's visit schedule and its significance. Ambassador Wang also answered questions on pragmatic cooperation in various fields between China and New Zealand.
Ambassador Wang Lutong noted that this year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and New Zealand, and that bilateral relations have entered an important era of inheriting the past while forging ahead into the future. Premier Li Keqiang's visit to New Zealand is of great significance in deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries and advancing pragmatic cooperation in various fields. During the visit, Premier Li will meet with Governor-General Patsy Reddy and Prime Minister Bill English to exchange views on China - New Zealand relations, as well as on international and regional issues of common concern. The two sides will announce or conclude a series of cooperative agreements in the fields of economy, trade, culture, science and technology. China believes that Premier Li Keqiang’s visit will inject new impetus into the development of bilateral relations. In the context of a complex and volatile international situation, Premier Li’s visit will also send a positive signal that China and New Zealand are committed to the principles of openness, collaboration and win-win outcomes.
Ambassador Wang Lutong noted that since the establishment of diplomatic ties 45 years ago, pragmatic cooperation between China and New Zealand in various fields has been established from scratch, progressing from small-scale to large scale at a remarkable rate. Bilateral trade exceeded NZ$ 20 billion in 2016, an increase of nearly 5%, and is growing steadily towards the NZ$ 30 billion target set by the leaders of the two countries for 2020. Economic and trade cooperation between China and New Zealand is highly complementary, and since the China – New Zealand FTA came into force in 2008, bilateral trade has maintained a double-digit growth rate. New Zealand's exports to China, particularly, have almost quadrupled, which has brought real benefits to New Zealand’s enterprises and people. Looking into the future, the potential for economic and trade cooperation between China and New Zealand is huge with unlimited opportunities.
Speaking of the China – New Zealand FTA upgrading negotiations, Ambassador Wang Lutong fully affirmed that New Zealand was the first developed country to launch FTA upgrading negotiations with China, and that the China – New Zealand FTA upgrading negotiations are of considerable exemplary significance. At present, relevant departments of the two countries are keeping in close communication and coordination over the upgrading negotiations. Instead of focusing on specific areas, the negotiations are aimed at achieving a fully upgraded version of the FTA. The negotiations will cover the issues of investment, the servicing trade, animal and plant quarantine, principles of origin, economic technology, E-commerce and competition policies. The two sides will strive to complete the negotiations at an early date. Once the FTA upgrading negotiations are completed, China – New Zealand economic and trade cooperation will scale new heights.
Ambassador Wang Lutong noted that New Zealand is a natural extension of the ‘21st century Maritime Silk Road’ and China welcomes the participation of New Zealand in the building of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative. Over the past three years, China and New Zealand have obtained initial cooperative results – China has become New Zealand’s largest export destination, the largest source of imports and the number one trading partner. Through the continuation of the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative, China hopes to carry out strategic cooperation with New Zealand, explore cooperative ways and means, and expand the participation of Chinese enterprises in New Zealand’s roads, railways, ports, tunnels, hotels and other infrastructure construction. The objective is to lay the foundation for the sustainable economic and social development of New Zealand in the long run, bringing tangible benefits to the two peoples.
Ambassador Wang Lutong noted at the end of the interview that the Fifth Session of the 12th National People's Congress and the Fifth Session of the CPPCC National Committee, successfully concluded not long ago, have specified the directions for the further implementation of the ‘13th Five-year Plan’ and the advancement of the ‘Opening and Reform’ policy, opening up broader new prospects for China – New Zealand pragmatic cooperation. Currently, when both China and New Zealand are at critical stages of economic transformation and upgrading, it is the right time to strengthen practical cooperation in various fields. The two countries should take the opportunity of Premier Li Keqiang’s visit as a new historical starting point to plan for the next steps of bilateral exchanges at all levels, exploring new areas of extensive cooperation to further the countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership, leading to an even brighter future for relations between China and New Zealand.