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Openings for Chinese workers

Published: 6:16PM Monday April 07, 2008 Source: ONE News

More Chinese workers will be able to come to New Zealand to ply their trades under the landmark free trade agreement signed on Monday.

Martial arts is a discipline you would not expect to be covered under an FTA but it is, with up to 150 more Chinese martial arts coaches now being able to teach New Zealanders to kick, punch and chop.

"If you think Chinese kung fu you think of China instantly of course and so you're going to the home of where it all's a bit like having an allocation of like the All Blacks of Chinese kung fu," says David Chan from the Chin Woo Association.

The martial arts masters will be among 1800 Chinese workers now eligible for three year working visas.

Of these 200 will be able practice traditional Chinese medicine, another 200 can work as specialist Chinese chefs, there will  be 150 places for Mandarin language teachers and up to 100 Chinese tour guides.

Another 1000 Chinese can work in industries with skills shortages, like computer engineering, nursing, electrical work and plumbing.

The cap of 1800 visas has not quelled political fears.

Green Party MP Keith Locke says the move displaces New Zealand workers. "It can undermine the conditions of New Zealand workers to have a cheap Chinese labour force on projects advanced under this free trade agreement," says Locke.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union says the deal with China will offer potential economic benefits to New Zealand but will increase the need for Kiwi businesses to invest in skills and equipment.

The EPMU represents members in industries affected by tariff reductions and temporary migrant labour. National secretary Andrew Little says his union is comfortable with the FTA.

"Our major concerns about the free trade agreement with China were around its effect on New Zealand manufacturing and the temporary movement of labour into New Zealand, both of which have been addressed," says Little.

"On the issue of temporary labour we believe a good balance has been struck. The limit of 1000 Chinese migrants for up to three years is a sensible control that should help relieve skills shortages without putting downward pressure on New Zealand wages."

Under the deal, a thousand young Chinese will also be able to work in tourism and seasonal work while holidaying here.

But those welcoming more Chinese culture in New Zealand only want the best.

"The key for us would be to have a screening process for those instructors to make sure we have got the cream of the crop," says Chan.