China will take initial steps with Australia and New Zealand this year to prepare for upgrading current separate free trade agreements with the two countries, the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) announced on Thursday.
Following a declaration of intent on reviews of services and investment commitments under the China-Australia FTA (ChAFTA) signed last week in Canberra, Chinese and Australian officials will commence those reviews sometime this year, Sun Jiwen, a spokesman for the MOFCOM, told a press briefing in Beijing.
The declaration of intent was signed during a recent official visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Australia.
A review will also be conducted on the operation of the memorandum of understanding of the Investment Facilitation Arrangement, according to Sun. He added that such steps are intended to “form a foundation for commencing upgrade negotiations of the ChAFTA at an appropriate time.”
The ChAFTA was implemented on December 20, 2015 and has led to three tariff reductions on a wide range of products from both sides. Currently, 85 percent of products from both countries are covered by reduced tariffs.
“The implementation of the ChAFTA has been very effective and positive,” Sun said, pointing out increases in exports by China of items such as mechanical products and toys and the imports of Australian agricultural products. The ChAFTA also helped in a 56 percent surge in Chinese investments in Australia in 2016, Sun added.
Sun also announced that the first round of negotiations for upgrading the China-New Zealand FTA has been scheduled for April 25-27 in Beijing.
The FTA, signed in 2008, was the first FTA China signed with a developed country. Sun said the FTA has helped the development of China-New Zealand economic and trade ties.