On 29 March Hong Kong and New Zealand signed a Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) agreement, liberalizing trade between their two economies. While this is Hong Kong’s first free trade accord with a foreign country, New Zealand adopted an international insertion strategy several years ago to counter its geographical isolation and has since established a wide range of bilateral and multilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and strategic alliances. Furthermore, New Zealand is the only developed country to have signed an FTA with mainland China.
New Zealand´s Trade Minister Tim Groser stated that “The CEP complements our existing FTA with China and, given Hong Kong's position as a regional trading and investment hub, supports New Zealand business engagement with the wider region”. Minister Groser highlighted that New Zealand´s exports to China have grown 43% in the last year, and that this CEP with Hong Kong will facilitate access to southern China markets for his country´s export-oriented companies producing high-quality high-tech goods and services.
The CEP will eliminate tariffs on a wide range of goods and services forming part of the existing bilateral trade between the two economies, including cultural and creative industries, environmental industries, innovation and technology, logistics, maritime transport, and medical services. According to the text of the agreement, New Zealand will gradually reduce import tariffs on all Hong Kong-originated goods, producing estimated savings of more than US$ 900.000 a year. Service providers from Hong Kong will also enjoy preferential treatment in several sectors of New Zealand´s market. On New Zealand´s side, free access to the Hong Kong market will not only be a huge opportunity in itself, but also a gateway for high-tech companies to access the rest of Asia.