WELLINGTON, March 25 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will lead one of the country's largest ever prime ministerial delegations abroad when he travels to China next week to mark 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the fifth anniversary of the China New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
Key said Monday that he would meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the annual Bo'ao Forum for Asia conference on April 7, the fifth anniversary of the signing of China's only FTA with a developed country.
New Zealand exports to China had more than tripled since the signing of the FTA to 6.9 billion NZ dollars (5.76 billion U.S. dollars) last year, up 16.6 percent on the previous year, he said.
"China is now New Zealand's second largest and fastest growing major trading and tourism partner. It is also our largest education market for foreign students," Key said in a statement.
"Last year, nearly 200,000 Chinese visitors came to New Zealand, up 35 percent on the previous year, and they spent around 651 million NZ dollars in New Zealand."
Last week, Statistics New Zealand released figures showing 31, 500 Chinese visitors arrived in New Zealand in February, up by 16, 300 -- more than double -- from February 2012.
"New Zealand's post-FTA trade and investment growth with China has helped lessen the impact on New Zealand from the recent global financial crisis," said Key.
Key will also be officially welcomed by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at Beijing's Great Hall of the People and meet senior regional and city leaders in major centres of Guangzhou and Shanghai.
He will also address students at Peking University, one of China's premier educational institutions and the host of the New Zealand Studies Centre in China.
The visit will be an opportunity to support New Zealand companies in China through business support activities and major tourism and education promotional events being held in the three Chinese cities the delegation will visit: Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully will accompany the Zealand prime minister to the Bo'ao Forum conference in Hainan Province from April 6 to 8, while Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Trade Minister Tim Groser and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples will join the business mission delegation.
Key will depart for his third trip to China since becoming prime minister in 2008 on April 5 and returning on April 13.