THE New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement has been upgraded, with the Kiwi trade minister saying the upgrade would modernise the 13-year-old agreement.

The upgrade addresses new issues such as e-commerce, and it puts a greater focus on environmental issues. The agreement also, the ministry said, establishes new channels for dialogue and co-operation with China.

In a video address, New Zealand trade minister Damien O’Connor said the agreement would strengthen the robust and mutually beneficial trade agreement between the two countries.

“It reduces red tape, delivers an even better deal for our goods and service exporters and puts greater focus on the environment and sustainable economic growth,” Mr O’Connor said.

“Trade is critical to our economic recovery post COVID-19. It’s a key driver of growth, prosperity and employment, with one in four New Zealanders jobs reliant on exports.”

The New Zealand International Business Forum welcomed the trade deal upgrade.

NZIBF chair Philip Gregan said the update is good news at a difficult time and comes on the heels of the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in November.

“It shows that trade liberalisation is still possible even in the midst of a global pandemic and that New Zealand and China can pursue a mutually beneficial economic relationship despite the differences between us,” Mr Gregan said.

“The China FTA was a ground-breaking agreement when it was signed in April 2008. It gave New Zealand a first-mover advantage in the Chinese market and trade has expanded as a result. In the interim, China has implemented a number of FTAs with our competitors.

“This upgrade brings the FTA up to date and adds some new, important elements such as the new chapters on e-commerce, trade and the environment and government procurement, as well as some new commitments on services and some modest market access on wood and paper products.”

China is New Zealand’s biggest trading partner. The initial agreement was first signed in 2008. According to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, two-way trade between the countries went from NZ$8 billion to NZ$32 billion in the years since the agreement was signed.