Notwithstanding the current fragility of the Dr Manmohan Singh Government in India, Prime Minister John Key is confident that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries will be signed early next year.
His optimism was triggered by the advanced stage of negotiations between the officials of the two Governments over a series of meetings held in India and New Zealand over the past three years and the enthusiasm with which Dr Singh received Mr Key during the latter’s first State visit in June.
Commerce & Industry Minister Anand Sharma, who met Mr Key and Trade Minister Tim Groser in Delhi told reporters that the FTA was on track and that his Government was also keen to sign the pact early.
Mr Key told a meeting of National Party supporters, mainly from the Indian business community in South Auckland on August 24 that New Zealand and India were keen to boost bilateral relations and trade.
“India is emerging as a strategic trade partner for New Zealand. The proposed FTA will create new opportunities to lift our two-way trade from the current level of $1 billion,” he said.
Paying tributes to the Indian community, he said that Indians have shown resilience, perseverance and acumen in their businesses.
“You have been an important part of our country’s growth. I am also confident that the New Zealand economy will continue to grow since the process of recovery has already begun. Our economic policies and programmes are designed to benefit all New Zealanders. I am sure we will return to surplus by financial year 2013-2014,” he said.
Mr Key praised the services rendered by his fellow Member of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi to the Indian community.
Mr Bakshi, who hosted the fundraiser for his Party at the Papatoetoe Club, said Indians were among the early settlers in New Zealand and that they have been active in many sectors of the economy.
“It is a matter of pride and satisfaction that our contributions are recognised,” he said and said that his National Party would continue to look after the interests of the Indian community.
About 200 people, representing various sections of the Indian community in Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga were present at the meeting.