China and New Zealand flags.

Andrea Verdelli | Getty Images News | Getty Images

China and New Zealand are working toward implementing an upgraded version of the free trade agreement between the two countries.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Monday the two countries should kick off negotiations on the negative list of service trade “as soon as possible” in order to “push bilateral cooperation to a new level.”

That’s according to state news agency Xinhua.

Wang met New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay during an official visit to New Zealand.

McClay was cited by Xinhua as saying that “in the face of increasing trade barriers and uncertainties in the world, the upgraded China-New Zealand FTA is an important example” of expanding their partnership in economy, trade and personnel exchanges.

New Zealand was the first developed country to sign a bilateral free trade deal with China in 2008. That agreement was expanded in 2022.

China’s door to the world will open even wider, Wang said, pledging to forge closer cooperation with New Zealand in the next decade and emphasizing on the need to safeguard free trade.

China is New Zealand’s leading trading partner, with two-way goods and services trade between the two totaling NZ$38.7 billion ($23.55 billion) in the year ending September 2023.

Both ministers also discussed security in the Pacific.

“Alongside areas of cooperation, it was important to acknowledge areas of difference such as human rights, including the situation in Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet,” New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister said after the meeting.

“We also highlighted New Zealand and China’s shared interest in a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region and raised concerns over increased tensions in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait,” Peters said, according to a statement.

China has long considered Taiwan to be part of its territory, a claim self-ruled Taiwan has objected to. Beijing has also laid claims to almost the entire South China Sea, which the Philippines and other nations have competing claims over the vital waterway.

Wang is on a visit to New Zealand and Australia from Mar. 17 to 21. He will be holding the seventh China-Australia Foreign and Strategic Dialogue with Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong in his visit to Australia.

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