New Zealand is becoming an increasingly diverse country.
We are lucky to have a vibrant ethnic culture, and our Indian communities are an integral part of that.
Ever since I became Prime Minister, I have been clear that I welcome migrants who bring skills and diversity to our country, and I welcome open free trade and foreign investment in New Zealand.
That’s because I believe strongly New Zealand’s future is in being open and connected to the rest of the world. As a small island nation, we will not get rich selling things to ourselves. But we can if we build and develop strong and enduring global relationships.
That’s why it was great to meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during my recent visit to India and agree we will work towards an earlier completion of a high-quality and comprehensive bilateral free trade agreement.
We also pledged to continue to play constructive roles in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership talks.
Our economic relationship with India has grown significantly in the past five years, with two-way trade increasing by a third to $2.4 billion, but we can and should do more.
India is now the world’s third largest economy and in the next few years it will be the world’s most populated country so growing our relationship will offer incredible opportunities to New Zealanders and Indians alike.
India is already a key partner for New Zealand. It is a leading source of skilled migrants, international students and tourists.
Each year, we welcome many people from India to our beautiful country. In the past five years, the number of Indian tourists coming here has increased by more than 60 per cent to around 48,000 a year. Around 45,000 New Zealanders travel to India each year.
We have also nearly tripled the number of Indian students coming to study in New Zealand each year to around 30,000.
New Zealand was also honoured to host Indian President Pranab Mukherjee earlier this year, an historic event as he was the first Indian President to visit our country.
I was also pleased Prime Minister Modi has accepted my invitation to visit New Zealand and I look forward to welcoming him when he can make it.
As Prime Minister, I value the contributions Indian New Zealanders make to the success of our country. New Zealand is home to more than 160,000 New Zealanders of Indian-origin, and they make an important contribution to our business, cultural and sporting life.
Under National’s strong, stable and responsible economic management, New Zealand is in great shape and we are making good progress.
We have a strong, growing economy – one of the best performing in the developed world – there’s more jobs, falling unemployment, we are back in budget surplus and we’re getting better results from core public services like health, education and law and order.
Our focus now is building on those gains.
National is committed to maintaining rising surpluses because it gives New Zealand choices in the future. Along with tackling debt, they include building more new schools and hospitals and offering more support for our more vulnerable people.
Commitment to community
As Prime Minister, I am committed to ensuring the voice of the New Zealand Indian community is heard at the highest levels of government. Every year I attend a range of different Indian events and talk to lots of people in the Indian community about issues that matter to them. I particularly enjoy visiting as many Diwali events as I can attend each year across the country.
Alongside my colleagues Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and Dr Parmjeet Parmar, we are working hard to build a stronger, more prosperous country and to help families get ahead.
Dr Parmar is also National’s candidate in the upcoming by-election in Mt Roskill on December 3, 2016. She’s an outstanding candidate, who moved to New Zealand from India around 20 years ago, and knows Mt Roskill inside out. She’s been working hard as a List MP in the community for the past two years.
Parmjeet is running a strong campaign focused on the local issues that matter to the people of Mt Roskill. If you live in the electorate,
I would encourage you to get out and support her to become the next MP for Mt Roskill. This is your chance to vote in New Zealand’s first Indian electorate MP.
Finally, congratulations to Venkat and the team at Indian Newslink on celebrating 17 years of publication. That’s a significant milestone and I wish you all the best for many more editions to come.
John Key is Prime Minister of New Zealand.