New Zealand, China want to reach comprehensive free trade agreement

New Zealand and China want to reach a comprehensive free trade agreement, Prime Minister Helen Clark said Monday, ahead of a visit later this week by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

The two leaders will meet Thursday to discuss progress in free trade talks. The two countries announced in November 2004 that they would seek a free trade deal.

Clark told reporters Wellington is seeking a "comprehensive, high quality" agreement.

The two sides will also ink several bilateral cooperation agreements during Wen's two-day visit later this week, she said.

"We're up (to) the sixth round of negotiations now (on the free trade pact), but there will also be a number of other agreements signed on this visit ranging across a lot of areas of cooperation with China," Clark said without elaborating what the other agreements would cover.

China is New Zealand's fourth biggest trading partner.

Wen arrives Wednesday evening and after talks Thursday morning with Clark he will attend a state luncheon and meet New Zealand's head of state, Governor General Dame Silvia Cartwright.

Wen is due to leave New Zealand on Friday morning for Cambodia, reports the AP.

I.L.