WELLINGTON - Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visit to New Zealand is of great significance to the promotion of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries in a new era, Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Lutong has said in published article.
At the invitation of New Zealand's Prime Minister Bill English, Li kicks off a four-day official visit to the Oceanian country on Sunday, marking the first visit by a Chinese premier in 11 years.
The visit also comes at the 45th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations.
Practical cooperation in various fields between China and New Zealand has made remarkable progress, with bilateral trade exceeding 20 billion New Zealand dollars (14.08 billion U.S. dollars) last year, up nearly 5 percent year on year, Wang wrote, adding that the two sides are working to bring the volume up to 30 billion New Zealand dollars (21.12 billion U.S. dollars) by 2020.
Noting that China is the world's largest developing country and New Zealand is a small- to medium-sized developed economy, they are highly complementary in trade, Wang said, adding that bilateral trade in goods is booming and trade in services, especially tourism, is rising rapidly.
Meanwhile, New Zealand has seen more investment from Chinese enterprises in such areas as new agriculture, animal husbandry, food processing, finance and aviation.
Bilateral economic and trade cooperation has great potential, said Wang, adding that the two countries could further strengthen collaboration in food processing, emerging industries, sci-tech innovation, environmental cooperation, large mechanical and electrical products, and telecommunication.
He said Chinese enterprises are still at an early stage of investing in New Zealand and have bright prospects, especially as the country's demand for infrastructure upgrading is urgent and has a huge market.
Wang said China hopes New Zealand's government will provide a more open, fairer and more transparent investment and operation environment for Chinese enterprises investing in New Zealand, so as to lay a more solid foundation for the two nations to further expand their practical cooperation.
In addition, Wang wrote, New Zealand is a "natural extension" of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, so China welcomes New Zealand to participate in building the Belt and Road.
The Belt and Road Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road and was put forward by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient Silk Road trade routes.
China will invite New Zealand to attend a high-level meeting within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative in May to deepen dialogues and exchanges, expand consensus and jointly engage in win-win cooperation, he said.
New Zealand is the first Western developed country to launch negotiations to upgrade the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, with the first round of talks scheduled for this year, he said.
Wang said the two sides aim to comprehensively upgrade the FTA through negotiations, rather than just discussing a specific sector.
Negotiations will touch on investment, service trade, quarantine of animals and plants, the Principle of Original Production Place, economy and technology, e-commerce, and competition policies, in order to promote the FTA to a higher level.
Moreover, China has been New Zealand's largest source of foreign students for more than a decade, with 31,000 Chinese students studying in various educational institutions last year.
The two countries have cooperated in building three Confucius Institutes and 30 Confucius Classrooms in New Zealand, and more than 300 primary and middle schools here have Mandarin courses, with more than 40,000 primary and middle school students learning Mandarin Chinese.
On cultural exchanges, both governments and the public have been quite active, with various cultural forms and schools being introduced to each other, such as Lantern Festival activities, Chinese Week programs and Chinese cultural centers.
According to statistics from the New Zealand government, the number of Chinese citizens arriving in the country exceeded 400,000 in 2016.
China and New Zealand have in recent years cooperated actively in facilitating personnel exchanges. Since 2015, Immigration New Zealand has established cooperation with many Chinese enterprises, institutions and aviation companies in signing facilitation memorandums and other documents.
Meanwhile, New Zealand also issues one-stop Pathway Student Visas to Chinese students, with periods of validity up to five years. In 2017, New Zealand will launch facilitation procedures for Chinese citizens' customs clearance in New Zealand airports and offer multi-entry visas valid for up to five years.
Wang said these measures are of great significance to boosting personnel exchanges and deepening practical cooperation.
The development of China-New Zealand relations over the past 45 years shows that the two sides respect each other and treat each other as equals with sincerity and mutual trust, said the ambassador.
The two countries should seize the opportunities of Li's visit and the 45th anniversary to expand cooperation and implement the consensus on building their comprehensive strategic partnership, Wang said.
Given the current international circumstances, he said, China and New Zealand should also take concrete actions to jointly safeguard global free trade, oppose trade protectionism and direct globalization towards a more inclusive and beneficial direction.
By doing so, they will contribute to building an open world economy and give full play to the exemplary role of the China-New Zealand comprehensive strategic partnership, according to Wang's article.