New Zealand and China will upgrade its free trade agreement (FTA) within the framework of the controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), according to a report by Chinese Global Television Network (CGTN) on Sept. 25.
Gao Feng, a spokesperson from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), reportedly announced the news at the virtual China–New Zealand Joint Committee of Trade and Economy meeting on Sept. 23.
The upgrade aims to deepen cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture, and tourism, Gao said. CGTN reported that New Zealand and China would also maintain communication on research, medicine, and vaccine development.
New Zealand and China concluded negotiations for the upgraded FTA in November 2019. It is yet to be passed by the New Zealand government and currently is at the stage where submissions from the public are being heard.
In 2017 the former New Zealand government signed a Memorandum of Arrangement (MOA) with the Chinese regime to develop a plan for New Zealand to join the BRI within 18 months.
The MOA was delayed when the former government lost the election.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted in a speech in April 2019 that she discussed the Belt and Road Initiative with Li Keqiang, China’s premier, during her state visit to the communist nation in 2019.
At the same time, David Parker, the minister for trade and export growth, attended the Belt and Road Forum hosted by CCP leader Xi Jinping in Beijing in April 2019.
After attending the conference, Parker said: “The Belt and Road Forum provided a further opportunity for China and New Zealand to discuss possible avenues and opportunities for effective, transparent cooperation under a Belt and Road work plan.”
US Warns Five Eyes Allies Against BRI
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared in May that the United States would disconnect from any partner that it saw as putting at risk its national interests—including by signing up to the BRI.
In an interview on SkyNews, Pompeo warned Australia and its Five Eyes allies to look very closely at BRI agreements.
“There’s often money loaned at concessional rates or conditions placed in the debt documents or government concessions that have to be made to the Chinese Communist Party to get those Belt and Road Initiative projects built. Those present real risk—real risk to the people in that region, a real risk to your country,” Pompeo said.
Currently, a representative from the New Zealand Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed to The Epoch Times on Sept. 29 that New Zealand officials are still continuing to talk to their Chinese counterparts about the BRI and how it could benefit New Zealand especially around cooperation on international trade and environment initiatives.