Prime Minister John Key is heading to China for an official visit next week that will include a meeting with new Chinese President Xi Jinping, who succeeded Hu Jintao earlier this month.
Key will travel as part of a "high-level" business mission and cultural delegation to celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and China, and the 5th anniversary of the China New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Key will meet with Xi, at the Bo’ao Forum on April 7, which is the fifth anniversary of the FTA signing done under the previous Labour-led government. It's still China’s only such deal with a developed country. Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Trade Minister Tim Groser and Māori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples are tagging along.
"New Zealand exports to China have more than tripled since the signing of the FTA and trade has grown for both partners. Last year, New Zealand exports to China totaled NZ$6.9 billion, which is up 16.6% on the previous year," Key says.
Imports from China rose 3.7% to NZ$7.7 billion in 2012.
“China is now New Zealand’s second largest and fastest growing major trading and tourism partner. It is also our largest education market for foreign students."
In 2012 nearly 200,000 Chinese visited New Zealand, a rise of 35% from the previous year. They spent around NZ$651 million while in New Zealand.
“Last Friday, figures released by Tourism New Zealand showed Chinese visitor numbers for the month of February were up by more than 100% on the previous year, making it the biggest ever February for international arrivals," says Key.
“New Zealand’s post-FTA trade and investment growth with China has helped to lessen the impact on New Zealand from the recent global financial crisis."
Key will also be officially welcomed by China’s new Premier Li Keqiang at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People and will meet senior regional and city leaders in Guangzhou and Shanghai.
Key will depart at midnight on April 5 and return from his third trip to China since he became Prime Minister in 2008 on April 13.