Key dismisses piece-meal Free Trade

Venkat Raman – 

Prime Minister John Key has discounted any suggestion that New Zealand would accept piece-meal negotiation for free trade with India.

“Such an arrangement would not be in the interests of New Zealand. We will wait as long as it takes to sign a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India. I do understand that such pacts do not come about easily,” he said, speaking at the concluding session of the annual India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) at Langham Hotel in Auckland on Monday, June 13, 2016.

He was responding to comments made earlier by Arvind Mehta, Additional Secretary, Commerce & Industry Ministry, Government of India and Lead Negotiator for FTA.

Mr Mehta had suggested that New Zealand should take ‘what is offered’ and then proceed from thereon for further discussions for a free trade pact.

“New Zealand will not be able to negotiate with other countries for FTA if it accepts partial agreement with India. We wish to continue on the path for a comprehensive deal even if takes longer. I do understand India’s standpoint but any trade agreement should be fair and workable,” he said.

Serious challenges

Mr Mehta had said, “FTAs pose several challenges and India has to take into account a number of factors before agreeing to grant concessions on trade tariffs. We would therefore suggest that New Zealand accepts whatever is offered for the time-being. We can continue to discuss and negotiate on all other matters.”

Mr Mehta’s stand not only poured cold water on New Zealand’s enthusiasm and reaffirmed the opinions of experts that a FTA with India would not occur in the near future, especially since bilateral trade between the two countries continues to be in favour of New Zealand.

Trade Statistics

Every speaker at the Summit, including Mr Key placed the value of two-way trade at $2 billion but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade places the amount at $1.1 billion as at the end of financial year 2014. Of these, exports to India was valued at $618 million, while imports were $508 million.

The tenth round of negotiations concluded in February 2015. Lip service continues unabated, although there has been no tangible progress.

Indian Newslink will analyse the related issues in its July 1, 2016 edition.

Notwithstanding the FTA inertia, INZBC deserves credit for having organised its Annual Summit well, inaugurating a new era of partnership and cooperation between the two countries in agriculture, agro-technology and other areas of mutual interest.

With its theme, ‘Growing for Tomorrow: Spotlight Agritech,’ the one-day event evinced the interest of decision makers in ministries, government organisations and agencies, private sector companies, exporters, importers and traders in either country.

Preceding Fieldays

The event is a culmination of a series of discussions, stemming from a Memorandum of Understanding signed by INZBC with the New Zealand Fieldays Society, the foremost organisation of the country’s agricultural sector. The Summit precedes the annual four-day Fieldays, scheduled to be held from June 15 to June 18, 2016 at Mystery Creek Events Centre, Hamilton.

Wenceslaus Anthony, Head of Government Relations INZBC and Dr Rattan Sagar Khanna, Co-Chairman, Agribusiness and Dairy Committee of the Punjab, Haryana & Delhi Chambers of Commerce & Industry signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote the interests of businesses in New Zealand and India.

They were speakers at the event, along with INZBC Chairman Robert Barker and Treasurer Bhav Dhillon.

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Photo Caption:

Wenceslaus Antony and Rattan Sagar Khanna sign a MoU, watched by Bhav Dhillon

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