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Embassy of the People's Republic of China
New Zealand Embassy to China China, Mongolia

Our relationship with China

Aotearoa New Zealand and China have a long relationship going back to the 1840s. The first Chinese immigrant to New Zealand is thought to have been Appo Hocton, who arrived in Nelson in 1842. The first large-scale arrival of Chinese to New Zealand occurred in the 1860s, initially for gold-mining. Official contact began in 1912 with trade, missionary, immigration and other links. Aotearoa New Zealand and China established formal diplomatic relations in December 1972.

Our relationship with China is one of our most complex and significant, impacting a wide range of sectors and groups across Aotearoa New Zealand. Over the decades, Aotearoa New Zealand and China have developed extensive bilateral and trade connections.

Recent speeches by The Minister of Foreign Affairs to the New Zealand China Council(external link) and the Prime Minister to the China Business Summit(external link) define our broad policy approach to our relationship with China.  In 2022, Aotearoa New Zealand commemorated its 50th year of diplomatic relations with China.

More on New Zealand’s relationship with China

Read about first steps towards diplomatic ties between New Zealand and China.

Read about our new Embassy in Beijing.


China remains New Zealand’s largest trading partner(external link), with two-way trade totalling 40.31 billion (in the year ending December 2022). Bilateral goods trade showed strong resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic with both export and imports continuing to grow, despite supply chain disruption and increased costs. Trade in services was significantly impacted during the pandemic although demand for services is now rebounding with many New Zealand businesses able to reconnect with Chinese partners, customers, and consumers.

As in the wider relationship, formal diplomatic engagement continues to provide a valuable structure for advancing our trade and economic interests.

In June 2023, Prime Minister Hipkins led a business delegation to China, visiting Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai.

In June 2023 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade held the 2023 Foreign Affairs Consultations, and the 32nd Joint Trade and Economic Commission (JTEC), meeting with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce respectively. Beyond these important officials’ level bilateral political, trade and economic engagements, New Zealand Government agencies also hold formal dialogues or equivalents with Chinese counterparts in topics such as finance, forestry, food safety, dairy, customs cooperation, and more.

For more information, please see our China Market updates(external link).

2022 statistics

Total trade  $40.32 billion  
Exports to China $21.39 billion Top exports: dairy, meat, and wood products
Imports from China $18.93 billion Top imports: machinery and vehicles

For up-to-date statistics please visit Statistics New Zealand Trade Dashboard(external link).

Trade in goods

According to Statistics New Zealand, Aotearoa New Zealand's largest export to China remains dairy products, accounting for $6.6 billion worth of trade in the year ending 2022.  Meat, timber, infant formula, and fruit are also among Aotearoa New Zealand’s major exports to China over the same period.

Trade in services

New Zealand’s overall services exports to China totalled NZ$1.24 billion in 2022.

People-to-people links form the backbone of the New Zealand-China relationship. Aotearoa New Zealand and China continue to enjoy extensive people exchanges, especially in education and tourism. In the early days, both countries offered an exchange programme for three students each. Today, Chinese students constitute Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest source of foreign students.  

China continues to be an important tourism market for Aotearoa New Zealand. Pre-COVID-19, Chinese tourists accounted for our second largest source of tourists (behind Australia), with over 400,000 Chinese visitors in 2019.

Aotearoa New Zealand is committed to maintaining the tourism relationship that was strengthened during the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism in 2019. In June 2023, Tourism Minister Peeni Henare met his Chinese counterpart, Minister of Culture and Tourism, Hu Heping, to reaffirm the 2019 Tourism Cooperation Arrangement between Aotearoa New Zealand and the People’s Republic of China.

While education and tourism have traditionally been the biggest service exports, Aotearoa New Zealand also increasingly exports ‘knowledge economy’ services such as design, information technology, film and TV, and food safety.

New Zealand-China FTA

The 2008 New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was Aotearoa New Zealand’s biggest trade deal since the Closer Economic Relations agreement with Australia in the 1980s. It cements the trading relationship between New Zealand and China, and frees up business for exporters, the service sector and investors. By 2016, New Zealand had duty free access on over 97% of China’s tariff lines.

Since 1 January 2022, most New Zealand dairy products to China have been entitled to duty-free access as a result of the ongoing implementation of our 2008 FTA with China. This is expected to result in additional savings of $180 million per annum at current export volumes. All remaining tariffs on New Zealand dairy products will be lifted in 2024.

On 7 April 2022, the NZ-China FTA upgrade came into force. Building on our 2008 Free Trade Agreement, the Upgrade ensures more modern rules underpinning our bilateral trade, new market access commitments in goods and services, and additional trade facilitation measures.

The new chapters on environment and e-commerce, developments around clearance processes in the FTA, and tariff elimination over a 10 year implementation period on a number of wood and paper products, are changes that will help New Zealand firms compete in a critical and competitive market.

China and New Zealand are also both parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which entered into force on 1 January 2022. RCEP is a Free Trade Agreement between the 10 members of ASEAN and five other regional economies. It is projected to add $186 billion to the world economy and increase New Zealand’s GDP by around $2.0 billion.

China investment in Aotearoa New Zealand

Chinese investment in Aotearoa New Zealand is spread across a broad range of sectors. China (including Hong Kong) is among the largest sources of foreign direct investment amounting to NZD $11.46 billion in the year ending March 2022.  

Climate change and Environment

New Zealand and China have a long-standing commitment to bilateral cooperation on environment and climate change issues. New Zealand and China signed an Environmental Cooperation Agreement (ECA) [PDF, 206 KB] in 2008 which acts as the main framework for bilateral environment cooperation with China. The NZ-China FTA upgrade also included a new chapter on environment and trade.

Our bilateral cooperation on climate change is underpinned by the Climate Change Cooperation Arrangement [PDF, 206 KB] signed in 2014, and the New Zealand-China Climate Change Action Plan 2017 [PDF, 206 KB] which gives practical effect to the 2014 agreement. The 2019 New Zealand-China Leaders’ statement on Climate Change re-affirmed our commitment to strengthening our bilateral engagement on climate change. Our Ministers meet annually to discuss a range of issues through a Ministerial Climate Change Dialogue, most recently the Fourth New Zealand-China Ministerial Climate Change Dialogue was hosted virtually by China in October 2022. 

Science and Technology

New Zealand and China have significant mutual research interests, particularly in food, environmental and health sciences.

In June 2023, both countries renewed a 5-Year Roadmap for Science and Technology Cooperation (2023-2027). The Roadmap will guide and enhance future bilateral research, science, and innovation cooperation in the focus areas of Food, Environmental, and Health and Biomedical sciences.

More information is available on MBIE’s website: International science partnerships | Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment ( link)

Primary Industries

New Zealand holds a strong and longstanding relationship with China across the primary sector. We cooperate in a range of areas including agriculture, horticulture, fisheries and forestry, with the aim of growing and better understanding each other’s systems. We share interest in sustainability, pest and disease management, food safety, and consumer expectations. The Ministry for Primary Industries works closely with Chinese counterparts on a number of bilateral agricultural cooperation arrangements and activities. New Zealand engages in regulatory cooperation to facilitate trade and practical projects that meet our common interests, along with supporting relationship building by our primary sectors and leveraging government-to-government relationships to open the door for New Zealand businesses.

Human rights

New Zealand has a strong history of protecting and promoting human rights both at home and internationally.  We regularly discuss human rights issues with the Chinese Government and raise concerns both privately and publically. The Minister of Foreign Affairs has issued a number of statements relating to human rights in China, including in July 2022(external link) and September 2022(external link).

Entering China

The latest information on specific entry requirements, including pre-departure requirements and visa application processes, can be found on the Chinese Embassy website(external link).


New Zealand is represented in China by the New Zealand Embassy, Beijing. New Zealand also operates three Consulates-General:

China is represented in New Zealand by the Embassy of the People's Republic of China, Wellington(external link)

China Capable Public Sector programme

China capable logo.

The China Capable Public Sector (CCPS) programme is a whole-of-government initiative to develop a China capable public sector with awareness, knowledge, experience, and leadership to engage effectively with China, both internationally and domestically.

The programme is led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) in partnership with agency leaders across the public sector. This investment is being made by agencies given the significance of New Zealand’s relationship with China, the opportunities this presents and the challenges that need to be managed. 

The CCPS works with the New Zealand Contemporary China Research Centre to deliver products, drawing from expertise across the public sector, business, academia, media and the Chinese diaspora community.

For further information and contact details, please refer to the CCPS website(external link)

Recent bilateral engagements

New Zealand to China


  • June – Rt. Hon Chris Hipkins, Prime Minister
  • June – Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister for Trade and Export Growth
  • June – Hon Peeni Henare, Minister of Tourism
  • March – Hon. Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs


  • April - Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister
  • April – Hon David Parker, Minister for Trade and Export Growth
  • June – Hon Kelvin Davis, Minister of Tourism
  • July – Hon Ron Mark, Minister of Defence
  • August – Hon Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture


  • May - Rt. Hon Winston Peters, Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • July - Hon James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change
  • July - Hon Chris Hipkins, Minister of Education
  • September - Hon Shane Jones, Minister of Forestry
  • September - Hon Dr. Megan Woods, Minister of Science, Research and Innovation
  • November - Hon David Parker, Minister for Trade and Economic Growth

China to New Zealand

  • August 2023: China’s Minister of Education Huai Jinpeng visited for meetings with the Minister of Education, chairing of the 11th Joint Working Group on Education and Training, and the 30th New Zealand International Education Conference.
  • May 2023: China’s Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhigang, visited for meetings with Minister for Research, Science and Innovation, and New Zealand for the 6th New Zealand-China Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation.
  • September 2019: Party Secretary for Gansu Province, Lin Duo, visited for meetings with the Minister for Trade and Export Growth, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Mayor of Christchurch.
  • March 2019: China’s Minister of Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang travelled to New Zealand for the opening of the China – New Zealand Year of Tourism and meet with Minister of Tourism Kelvin Davis.
  • September 2018: Party Secretary for Guangdong Province, Li Xi, visited for meetings with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Foreign Minister Winston Peters, and other Ministers.


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