WELLINGTON, March 25 (Xinhua) -- Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's upcoming visit to New Zealand will open a new chapter in China-New Zealand relations and exert great influence on regional prosperity and development, Chinese ambassador to New Zealand Wang Lutong wrote in an article earlier this week.
At the invitation of New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English, Li will pay an official visit to New Zealand from Sunday to Wednesday.
The visit will be the first of its kind by a Chinese premier in 11 years and will be Li's first visit to New Zealand since he took office, Wang said.
During Li's stay in New Zealand, he will meet Governor General Patsy Reddy and hold talks with English to exchange views with them on bilateral ties and major issues of common concern, Wang said.
The two sides will sign a series of cooperative agreements regarding trade, people-to-people exchanges and technology, according to the ambassador.
Li's visit could lead to further high-level exchanges between China and New Zealand and broaden ties between the two countries, he said.
The visit will send a signal that both China and New Zealand are committed to openness and win-win cooperation, which has international implications far beyond bilateral ties, Wang said.
In his article, Wang mentioned that Rewi Alley, a New Zealand writer, educator and social reformer, went to China in 1927 and dedicated 60 years of his life to China's national independence, writing a chapter on the friendly exchanges between the two peoples.
Since China and New Zealand forged diplomatic ties 45 years ago, bilateral relations have witnessed remarkable growth, Wang said. The relationship has become a paradigm of harmonious coexistence between countries that have different social systems, different cultural traditions and are at different stages of development, he said.
The ambassador hailed New Zealand for leading developed countries in building ties with China.
Wang noted that New Zealand has been a front-runner among developed economies in conducting cooperation with China. It is the first developed country that signed a bilateral agreement with China on China's accession to the World Trade Organization, recognized China's full market economy status, signed a free trade agreement with China, and also the first Western nation to join China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, Wang said.
He added that this year China and New Zealand will kick off negotiations to upgrade their free trade agreement, creating another first.
All these groundbreaking and exemplary "firsts" showed the farsighted approach that the leaders and governments of the two countries have adopted to serve the fundamental and long-term interests of their two peoples, leaving remarkable imprints on the history of China-New Zealand ties, Wang said.
The ambassador said bilateral trade as been beneficial to both sides due to their complementary advantages. Two-way trade increased to more than 20 billion New Zealand dollars (about 14 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016 from 7 million New Zealand dollars (about 4.9 million U.S. dollars) more than 40 years ago and is advancing steadily toward 30 billion New Zealand dollars (about 21 billion U.S. dollars), a goal for 2020 set by the leaders of the two countries, said Wang.
Wang noted that bilateral trade has maintained double-digit growth since the China-New Zealand free trade agreement took effect in 2008.
Chinese investment in New Zealand has greatly increased and played an active role in helping New Zealand counter the 2008 global financial crisis and become a "star of economic growth" among members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, he added.
Now, China is New Zealand's largest trade partner, export market and source of imports, Wang said, adding that there is still great potential for economic and trade cooperation between the two sides.
Furthermore, China has remained New Zealand's largest source of overseas students for more than a decade, with 31,000 Chinese students and scholars studying in New Zealand in 2016, the diplomat said.
Tourism is another bright spot in relations, with more than 400,000 Chinese visiting New Zealand in 2016, an increase of 30 percent.
There's been growing enthusiasm to studying the Chinese language, said Wang, noting that three Confucius Institutes and 30 Confucius Classrooms have been set up in New Zealand. More than 300 middle and primary schools offer Chinese language courses, and there are more than 40,000 people studying the Chinese language.
There are more than 70 flights every week between major cities of the two countries.
Both China and New Zealand, though at different stages of development, firmly believe in safeguarding global free trade, oppose trade protectionism and are committed to jointly building an open global economy, Wang said.
The two countries also share broad common interests in safeguarding regional and world peace, while continuing to coordinate under multilateral frameworks such as the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Pacific Islands Forum.
"Grasping the opportunity of Li's New Zealand visit and the 45th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties, China will work with New Zealand to usher their comprehensive strategic partnership toward a new voyage, one that will further benefit both sides," Wang said.