WELLINGTON, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- The "upgrade" of the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) is part of a major new strategy to building New Zealand's export markets and is expected to be concluded next year, according to a government report out Tuesday.
The report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said officials are expected to conclude preparations in October and provide New Zealand and Chinese ministers with a " joint proposal/scope" for their announcement.
An agreement to explore an upgrade of the FTA was reached during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit in November last year and an assessment process was launched in March.
Known as the Joint Assessment Mechanism, its purpose is to provide the basis for decisions on the guidelines of the upgrade negotiations including objectives, methodology, scope and timeline, said the report.
Subject to ministerial endorsement, it is hoped that negotiations could commence by the end of the year with a view to concluding by the end of 2016.
An upgrade of the FTA would ensure access to New Zealand's second largest market, worth more than 10 billion NZ dollars (6.31 billion U.S. dollars) in 2014, continued under favourable conditions, with New Zealand businesses staying competitive in China, said the report.
It would also recognize "the seriousness that both sides place on their commitment to the FTA remaining a modern, comprehensive, 21st century agreement."
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Trade Minister Tim Groser launched the report, describing it as an ambitious trade strategy to lift linkages for New Zealand companies around the Pacific Rim and into Europe.
"The ongoing fragility of the world economy underlines the importance of strengthening trade relationships with all our key trading partners, particularly those around the Asia-Pacific region," Joyce said in a statement.
Other actions included seeking a strategic partnership with Southeast Asian nations, developing a new partnership with the Pacific Alliance countries in South America, pursuing the launch of a European Union-New Zealand FTA negotiation and seeking a successful conclusion to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.
"As well as our extensive list of immediate priorities, our trade strategy will develop a longer term policy, bringing in other key markets like India and the Gulf States," Groser said in the statement.
The government remained committed to achieving the goal of lifting exports to 40 percent of gross domestic product by 2025.
While dairy prices have plunged in recent months, other industries are growing strongly with tourism up 21 percent since 2012, international education up 17 percent since 2013 and information and communication technology up 70 percent since 2010.
The recent decline in the value of the New Zealand dollar will also help exporters who have to deal with the headwinds of a very high exchange rate in recent years, they said.