OPINION: Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visit to New Zealand isn't something to take lightly - he's here for a reason: to show the Government China's serious about the bilateral relationship.
Yes, China is one of our best friends in a political and economic sense, but increasingly so in a strategic sense; China wants influence here and it will continue to send its heavy-hitting politicians this way to push that agenda.
Premier Li has already secured some big deals from his visit, many of which have flown under the radar.
Belt and Road Initiative
New Zealand has signed an agreement to strengthen cooperation on China's multitrillion-dollar One Belt, One Road initiative. It's the world's biggest and most ambitious infrastructure project that aims to link China with the world with pan-continental railways, motorways, and maritime highways linked by megaports. China's invested in this infrastructure right throughout Africa, Asia, and Europe. It's now looking to New Zealand.
Chilled meat exports
This is a huge development for Kiwi farmers. Currently, China only allows frozen meat from New Zealand across its borders (worth around $980m), but have agreed to a six-month trial for chilled New Zealand beef, goat, and lamb. In return, New Zealand's removed the barrier for China to export onions here.
Upgrade of free trade agreement
When New Zealand signed China's first ever free trade deal with a developed nation, the iPhone hadn't even been released, Adele was barely known, and Helen Clark was still Prime Minister. In short: It's already outdated. Premier Li has agreed to start renegotiating the deal, which means New Zealand exporters will have better access to China's market. It's estimated it'll grow export earnings by $30m.
More flights, more Chinese tourists
Chinese passport holders will be allowed to come and go from New Zealand as many times as they like on new five-year tourist visas and business visas (up from the current three years). They will be able to use SmartGate too instead of lining up to be processed by an actual human being. A new air services agreement has boosted the number of direct flight slots by 10 flights per week, and that's planned to increase by an additional 11 flight routes by the end of the year. The extra flights are not only good for tourism, but also good for Kiwi exporters as it means there's more cargo capacity into China.
New 'Chinese Culture Centre' in Auckland
An agreement has been signed that will see a new Chinese Cultural Centre built in Auckland, with the purpose of enhancing cultural understanding and promoting Chinese language, education, arts, and culture.
Like buying stuff online? It'll be easier to do so from China with a new e-commerce agreement. It expands on a current deal that opened up the massive AliBaba.com shop to Kiwis. Now manufacturers will be able to sell direct to Kiwi consumers.