New Zealand and China sign free trade agreement


New Zealand and China have signed a free trade agreement. The agreement is said to provide mutually beneficial concessions in the areas of trade of goods, services and investment. New Zealand is the first developed country to enter into any sort of free trade agreement with China.

The agreement refers specifically to the importance of IP rights in "promoting economic and social development, particularly in the new digital economy, technological innovation and trade".

Under the agreement, each party must establish and maintain transparent IP rights regimes, and reaffirm its commitment to the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs). The TRIPs Agreement is specifically incorporated into and made part of the agreement.

The parties also agreed to cooperate in eliminating trade in counterfeit goods. This may be viewed as a hollow promise on China's part given the scale of China's counterfeiting trade. Anecdotal evidence is that China is the world's single largest manufacturer of counterfeit goods, with the vast majority of counterfeit goods coming out of China. The free trade agreement also comes at a time when China is under the spotlight for both human rights and environmental abuses, particularly as the Beijing Olympic Games draws closer.

However, the agreement promises to remove tariffs on 96% of New Zealand exports to China and save NZ$115.5 million on duty based on current trade. This is significant given that China is currently New Zealand's fourth-largest export market behind Australia, the United States and Japan. China is New Zealand's second largest-import market behind Australia.

Julie Ballance and Kate Duckworth, Baldwins, Wellington

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