BEIJING, March 27 (Xinhua) -- China has witnessed great development of bilateral relations with Australia and New Zealand over the past 45 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties with the two Oceanian countries in 1972.
Within the context of such booming relations, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang paid an official visit to Australia on March 22-26 and is on an official visit to New Zealand on March 26-29, in efforts to add new impetus to trade and investment cooperation with the two countries and promoting regional prosperity.
The following facts and figures speak loud and clear the major achievements made in the development of China-Australia and China-New Zealand relations since the establishment of diplomatic relations with the two countries.
FIGURES ON CHINA-NEW ZEALAND TIES
China and New Zealand agreed to start talks on upgrading a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in late April.
The consensus was reached during Li's ongoing visit to New Zealand, which puts upgrading the FTA that took effect in 2008 high on agenda.
In April 2008, China and New Zealand signed the FTA. According to the agreement, all goods exported from China to New Zealand became tariff free on Jan. 1, 2016, while tariff on most New Zealand exports to China will be phased out by Jan. 1, 2019.
The FTA has created mutually beneficial concessions in trade in goods and services and in investment, including lowering tariffs for fruits.
For example, on New Zealand's signature kiwifruit, China started to gradually lower its 20 percent tariff since 2008 at a rate of about 2 percent each year, before it became tariff free in 2016.
In addition, New Zealand on Monday became the first Western developed country to sign a cooperation agreement with China on the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and was proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along and beyond the ancient land and maritime Silk Road trade routes.
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, according to Chinese Ambassador to New Zealand Wang Lutong.
The two sides are working to bring the volume up to 30 billion New Zealand dollars (21.12 billion U.S. dollars) by 2020, Wang added.
Beyond the sphere of trade, the peoples of China and New Zealand are steadily getting to know each other better.
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 in the country last year.
Meanwhile, New Zealand also issues one-stop Pathway Student Visas to Chinese students, with periods of validity of 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.
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 standard Chinese courses, with more than 40,000 primary and middle school students learning standard Chinese.
FIGURES ON CHINA-AUSTRALIA TIES
Before his visit to New Zealand, the Chinese premier was in Australia for a five-day visit.
China has been Australia's largest trading partner in the past eight years.
The two countries have witnessed booming bilateral trade since a free trade agreement, known as ChAFTA, took effect in December 2015. Since full implementation last year, bilateral trade has reached 108 billion U.S. dollars and bilateral investment was over 100 billion U.S. dollars, according to China's Foreign Ministry.
Since its entry into effect, the China-Australia free trade agreement has yielded continuous dividends, as evidenced by the more than 50-percent year-on-year growth in Australian exports of milk powder, red wine and dietary supplements to China. There products are among the most sought-after overseas products for Chinese consumers.
For example, east China's Shandong Province, the third-largest provincial-level economy in the country, has seen tariffs on exports and imports with Australia reduced by 440 million yuan (64 million U.S. Dollars) since late 2015, according to local customs.
People-to-people exchanges have soared as the two-way trips between the two countries reached nearly 2 million last year, and 260,000 Chinese are studying in Australia, according to China's Foreign Ministry.
Moreover, this year marks the China-Australia Year of Tourism. There are already over 100 pairs of sister states, provinces and cities between the two countries, the ministry added.