India calls for regional trade pact

FTA with New Zealand runs into trouble again

Venkat Raman at India Trade Alliance Meeting at 735 pm

Arvind Mehta, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Commerce and Industry and Lead Negotiator of the Government of India is now at a meeting of the India Trade Alliance at Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland.

He said that multilateral relations are better than bilateral negotiations, citing the World Trade Organisation as an example.

He said agricultural subsidy was a thorny issue and that it became a bone of contention for the Doha Round of WTO talks.

“There was nothing offered in return for agricultural subsidy,” he said.

He described the recently signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement’ as a pact outside WTO.

“India-New Zealand relations are important but we could perhaps consider a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and then top it with FTA. You need to see the India perspective,” he said.

Mr Mehta said that pacts like TPPA were done outside the WTO and had only marginal adjustments.

He warned that if New Zealand insisted on a full-scale FTA, it would then an endless case of negotiations.

“India can give a generous offer,” he said but stopped short of elaborating it.

India can immediately offer free trade in service sector, he added.

“In the Goods sector, India would get nothing especially in the context of TPPA to which New Zealand is a signatory. India will gain nothing by signing an Agreement. New Zealand has nothing to offer in the Goods sector,” Mr Mehta said.

India will agree to a Model of Moderate Tariff which is ‘TPPA Minus’ Model, he added.

The tone of his talks over the last three days

Has been such that tariff reduction in the name of FTA would not be in the interest of India. He is likely to take a tough stand when he meets his New Zealand counterparts tomorrow.

Prime Minister John Key has already said that New Zealand would insist on a ‘Complete FTA Package’ and not a selective agreement.

The situation as we see is stalemate and as we have mentioned earlier, an FTA between New Zealand and India is as distant as it was before negotiations began nine years. And like everything else, we will be happy to be proved wrong.

Indian Newslink will publish a detailed report and analysis in its next issue dated July 1, 2016.

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Mr Mehta is seen here with Giri Gupta, Chairman of India Trade Alliance at the Meeting

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