China looks to broaden free trade agreement with New Zealand

Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - China aims to expand an existing free trade agreement with New Zealand, Premier Li Keqiang told Prime Minister John Key during a meeting in Beijing, state media said on Tuesday.

New Zealand was the first OECD country to sign a free trade agreement with China, in 2008, and China became New Zealand's largest export market in 2014.

"China will work to expand trade within the framework of the FTA and create conditions on broadening the agreement," the official China Daily paraphrased Li as telling Key.

China will also expand cooperation overall with New Zealand, in areas such as agriculture and food safety, Li added.

The report quoted Key as saying he will also work to upgrade the free trade agreement. The newspaper gave no further details.

The move comes as New Zealand and 11 other advanced economies accounting for 40 percent of the global economy have signed the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), to which China is not a party.

Beijing has been keen to shore up bilateral trade deals and promote the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in the face of TPP, concerned by Washington's effort to reshape and liberalise Asia's trade rules.

Though the TPP faces opposition in the U.S. Congress, China could lose some ground to manufacturing competitors such as Vietnam if the deal goes into force, as it would expand duty-free access among members.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Richard Borsuk)