NZ-China FTA to be re-worked as trade grows

NZ-China FTA to be re-worked as trade grows

New Zealand's Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China is set to get an upgrade as the country tries to forge on with a trade agenda without a Donald Trump-led United States.

Prime Minister John Key made the announcement while in Peru for the APEC conference where he's also met with Russian President Vladimir Putin to talk trade.

He says New Zealand's 2008 FTA with China, signed under Labour, has been performing above what had been expected, but there's room to grow.

Trade between the two countries is now sitting around $20 billion a year, with the re-negotiated agreement hoping to reach the $30 billion by 2020.

"If we're going to achieve that then we need to really upgrade that FTA and give New Zealand exporters better access to a wider range of products."

One of the main industries that'll be combed over is dairy, but will also include others such as forestry.

Mr Key denied the updated agreement was in response to the failing 12-country Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which is on the ropes under US President-elect Trump, saying talks with China happened prior to his election.

But with the US trade agenda "far more negative" than under outgoing President Barack Obama, Mr Key says countries have sought to go on without them.

"New Zealand not only should, but it has to go forward if we're going to underpin our economy. We succeed when we have access to those consumers. Obviously we want to do that with the US, but if they're not willing participants we have to continue our trade agenda in other places."

There had been talk that Australia's trade agreement with China was of a better quality than New Zealand's, but on closer inspection, Mr Key says that may only be the case in "one or two areas". 

He estimated the process for the renewed China agreement could take around a year, with the first round of negotiations in the first half of 2017.

China is New Zealand's second-largest goods and services export market and largest export market for goods.

In the year ending June 2016, goods and services exports to China was worth $12.2 billion.

TPP 'not about Trump'

Outspoken TPP opponent, Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey, says still hoping for the TPP to go through is about "justifying political capital".

"As political leaders from various TPP desperately dreamed up rescue packages at the APEC summit, they jettisoned any pretence this is about trade," she said.

"Talking up the prospect of some kind of TPP is about justifying the political capital they have invested to push through a deeply unpopular agreement and defending the outdated ideology on which it is based."

She says Mr Trump isn't the only thing standing in the way of the deal, with a vote still needed in Congress. But Mr Obama would be around 12 Republican votes short to push it through in the so-called "lame duck session" of Congress.