Prime Minister John Key has signalled that the only way to secure a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with India is to take ‘an aggressive approach,’ with a decisive stand on some of the prickly issues that confront both countries.
“I think the real challenge for New Zealand is being as aggressive as we can be to get an FTA with India,” he said, speaking at a Dinner hosted by the India New Zealand Business Council at Pullman Hotel on July 8, 2014.
He hoped that the new Government led by Narendra Modi in New Delhi would make positive moves and express its keenness in concluding a FTA with New Zealand.
He implied that it was important to set aside bureaucratic impediments and see the larger picture, which would display benefits of a full and free trade pact.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to have great ties with India on many fronts. Change is coming to India; a change that we all observe with great hope and bated breath,” he said.
There was a note of disappointment in his speech that despite nine rounds of negotiations between the officials of the two countries over the past seven years at meetings held in New Zealand and India, there has been no visible progress towards an agreement.
Trade Minister Tim Groser expressed his frustration in his address at the India Business Summit held earlier in the day at the same venue.
India has traditionally adopted a highly conservative approach to trade negotiations, he said and recalled that in 1985 India and New Zealand had approximately the same share of world trade (0.3%).
That historical figure is better left unadorned without any commentary, he said.
Ideal testing ground
“New Zealand would be a more than useful partner if India decides to pursue a trade liberalising agenda as a means to economic competitiveness. Our size means we are an ideal test-case for a progressive approach to liberalisation and explains our strategic role when China was looking for its first outward-looking FTA partner,” he said.
Mr Groser said that New Zealand is committed to rapidly progressing the FTA negotiation to its conclusion if the Indian Government desires.
Technology, not trade
However, India’s High Commissioner Ravi Thapar took a different direction to bilateral relationship between New Zealand and his country during his speech that followed the address of Mr Key.
“India looks at New Zealand as a ‘Technology Partner,’ rather than as a ‘Trading Partner.’ India needs the technology and technical expertise of New Zealand. We can be great partners in education, fisheries, oceanography and many other areas. We could have trading zones with appropriate facilities,” he said.
A number of speakers covered a variety of issues that could affect the economic relations between New Zealand and India.
More than 250 delegates attended the Summit held under the theme ‘Business Beyond Barriers,’ while the dinner accounted for about 300 guests. Both events marked the Silver Jubilee of INZBC.
Indian Newslink will publish a detailed analysis of the Summit, including an announcement of Sports Scholarships made by Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce in its next issue.