The Taiwan FTA

Fran O’Sullivan writes:

New Zealand notched another historic world “first” this week in its relationship with Greater China with the signing of the free trade deal. Have you heard about it yet?

Forging the deal with the politically isolated island will enable our dairy, beef, kiwifruit and apple exporters to gain greater access to what is already New Zealand’s 12th- largest trading partner. John Key also launched the Asean strategy, which was well overdue given the ink on that particular deal is long dried. …

For political reasons – China’s sensitivity over “One China” – the Taiwanese deal goes by the humungous title of “Agreement between New Zealand and the separate customs territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu on Economic Co-operation (Anztec)”.

It’s an extraordinary mouthful.

But New Zealand can’t simply sign a straight-out with Taiwan, because mainland China already has one with us and while New Zealand has a closer economic partnership with the special administrative region of Hong Kong, in China’s eyes Taiwan is a mere province.

Key is correct to say the deal is “momentous on a number of fronts”.

Not only is New Zealand the only country in the world to have a free trade agreement with all parts of China – Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland; it is also a good opportunity for our exporters as bilateral deals with South Korea and India are still way down the pipeline.

It is a coup to be able to get an FTA with both China and Taiwan.

The drum out of Wellington is that the deal was signed at a low-key ceremony at the local university to avoid upsetting Beijing. But who (seriously) believes that the ink would ever have been applied without Beijing’s tacit approval.

New Zealand’s trade negotiators, led by former diplomat Charles Finny, deserve congratulations.

Pity our politicians couldn’t break out the champagne in public – but they have secured another deal where some of New Zealand’s competitors can’t.

The benefits to NZ of FTAs has been huge. As a remote trading nation, they are our lifeblood. Very sad that two parties in Parliament consistently oppose them.

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