Free trade for food

While Americans bicker over the Colombia FTA, China and New Zealand cut a deal. Could rising food prices be the reason?

By Andrew Leonard

Published April 15, 2008 7:25PM (EDT)

On April 7, China signed its first free trade agreement with a developed country: New Zealand. Much was made of the friendly recent history between the two nations. New Zealand was the first developed country to sign off on China's accession to the World Trade Organization, and first to certify China as a "market economy."

But the real story here might be food. New Zealand is a major food exporter. In a world where food prices are rising sharply, China has evidently decided that tariff barriers ranging from 15-30 percent on New Zealand lamb, dairy and kiwi fruit don't make much economic sense.

All across the globe, countries nervous about their food supplies are slashing tariffs on food imports. But by locking in preferential access to its booming markets for New Zealand, China is clearly making a big play to ensure it can feed its population in the foreseeable future.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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