If Labour were hunting for the right rabbit to pull out of their hat, they could have done a lot worse than the China FTA. This deal is a major coup, bigger than anything before. For starters, there's a comprehensive website. But it goes way way beyond that.
I have this theory based on a turning globe. Each century has its turn. 19th century was Europe's go. Then the Yanks had a go in the 20th C. This century belongs to the Asians. China and India is where it's at. Just wait til those middle classes come online and, well, it's a different world (I wish I had enough money to secure the licence for Tata Nanos in New Zealand. The used car market will never be the same once those things finally get here).
The China FTA sets the standard for bilateral agreements. As Queen Bee says, this thing is way better than what the Ozzies got out the US. This FTA blows it out of the water, in fact. It sets a standard that NZ can take to the WTO, changing things on a global stage. If only the WTO could incorporate the carbon credit scheme too.
Yeah, forestry got snarked, but everything else more than makes up for it.
The first-comer status is the greatest legacy that Labour 5 could ever bestow on NZ. Like a South Pacific Switzerland, it allows NZ to clip the ticket of any other country wanting to deal with China, at least in the short term. Longer term, any preferential treatment on other FTAs with other countries will automatically give NZ the same status. Saves on paperwork and diplomacy, eh.
Effects will be immediate, or as close as international agreements get: October 2008. About the same time as Cullen's budget has its first effect, just before the election. This game ain't over by a long chalk.