Free Trade Agreement still on backburner

Venkat Raman

India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand Ravi Thapar says that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries is being negotiated, although our sources believe that such a pact would take more time to materialise.

Despite several rounds of talks held between the officials of the two governments both in India and New Zealand over the past six years, FTA with New Zealand is not on Delhi’s priority list. India is keen to have a more constructive engagement with New Zealand on technology but Prime Minister John Key and Trade Minister Tim Groser are more interested in tariff free movements of goods.

Pursuing objectives

Speaking at the 66th Republic Day Celebrations held at Bharat Bhavan in Wellington on January 26, 2015, Mr Thapar said, “A FTA and a more elaborate Air Services Agreement for facilitating better air linkages and connectivity are being negotiated. What is now important is to give practical shape to some of the objectives enshrined in these bilateral agreements.”

He also believes that India would like to have New Zealand as a ‘Technology Partner’ and not as a mere ‘Trade Partner.’

Two-way trade between the two countries currently stands at $1.1 billion- this figure pales in comparison with that of China, which at $20 billion is New Zealand’s largest trading partner. The FTA signed by the two countries in 2008 is expected to take bilateral trade to $30 billion in the next five years.

Positive developments

Ravi and Sharmila Thapar with (from left) Ratna Venkat, Jeffery Nathan and Joseph Alexander at the Indian Republic Day Celebrations in Wellington on January 26
Ravi and Sharmila Thapar with (from left) Ratna Venkat, Jeffery Nathan and Joseph Alexander at the Indian Republic Day Celebrations in Wellington on January 26

Outlining a number of developments including exchange visits at ministerial and official levels that have occurred in recent years, he described the prospects for strengthening bilateral cooperation as ‘positive and promising.’

However, New Zealand is not merely a global supplier of agricultural goods and primary commodities, Mr Thapar said.

“Rather, many companies here have developed smart and innovative technologies, which cannot be commercialised easily due to New Zealand’s modest-sized market. Given India’s rich reservoir of scientists and engineers, professionals and consultants, substantial market and huge middle class and ever-burgeoning economic requirements and expanding investments in infrastructural projects, New Zealand businesses can work closely with their Indian counterparts for commercializing such technologies for sale not only in India but also in other markets,” he said.

The Guests

Ethnic Communities Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, Opposition Leader Andrew Little, National Party MPs Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, Paul Foster Bell and Brett Hudson, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade Brown, diplomats and people of Indian origin were among those who attended the Celebrations.

Dance performances by Ratna Venkat with live music by Jeffery Nathan and Joseph Alexander (from Auckland) were a highlight of the event.

Pictures by Bhiku Bhula

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