New Zealand will ink an economic cooperation agreement with Taiwan in Wellington tomorrow evening completing a triumvirate of FTAs with China and its satellites: Hong Kong and Taiwan.
NZ will be the first Western nation to triangulate the trade relationship with China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Singapore – which like NZ is understood to have agreed the guts of the economic cooperation agreement months ago – is waiting in the wings to sign its deal.
It has required China’s goodwill for NZ and Taiwan to take this step.
The deal is another big plus for New Zealand with expectations most NZ exports will be tariff free at the time the deal goes into effect with only a few carve-outs such as fresh milk. Other tariffs reduce over time.
For the Taiwanese side the deal is more strategic.
NZ journalists were slapped with an embargo when invitations went out last night. But China Post (a Taiwanese newspaper) had already published details. It reported that Taiwanese Government officials who gave presentations on the ECA on Monday were bombarded with complaints from legislators for only beginning to communicate with them two days ahead of the signing.
Negotiations started in May 2012 – but the resultant agreement is in fact the result of a trade gavotte that started 12 years ago. The deal is another feather in the cap for former diplomat Charles Finny who was the NZ negotiator.
China Post reported Deputy Minister Francis Liang saying there has been substantial progress made on the ECA, but that “it is not appropriate to confirm or deny” if the agreement will be signed tomorrow.
Liang offered an analogy of cooking rice, saying that one should not open the cap of a rice cooker too soon, otherwise they risk spoiling the rice. He stressed that international trade agreements are usually announced after both sides have reached a consensus regarding the agreement’s implementation.