India looks East but not far enough

Editorial One – 

India’s ‘Look East Policy’ is beginning to yield dividends and would play a prominent role as the country emerges as one of the most powerful economies of the world. However, the world’s largest democracy is yet to fine-tune its policies towards the region, especially bilateral ties with New Zealand.

Reader Rahul Chopra said in an analysis appearing in this Section that the strategic thinking in India is that ‘Look East Policy’ will support economic transformation and growth, particularly in the North Eastern region.

“India has taken strategic steps to strengthen this Policy over the years,” he said.

India is an active participant in such regional blocs as the East Asia Summit, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the South Pacific Forum. It is time that the country is involved in the economic and social development of the countries of the Asia Pacific Rim.

Avoiding APEC

Apart from sharing a number of common values and traditions, there is immense potential for India and New Zealand to foster trade, investment and exports. New Zealand is an ideal destination for film producers, as witnessed in recent years; and we need more of them.

It is also time for India to consider being a part of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). New Delhi has been accused of ‘avoiding membership’ to protect its interests and farm subsidies at the World Trade Organisation.

Narendra Modi did not accept Chinese President Xi Jinping’s invitation to attend the APEC Summit Meeting held in Beijing from November 8 to 10, 2014.

An APEC communication issued just before the Summit, said, “India now stands as a strong candidate for entry into APEC. However, its recent moves regarding WTO negotiations and declining this APEC meeting invitation present us with an India in contradiction,” the communication said.

Lethargic on NZ

Despite more than seven years of studies and negotiations, India and New Zealand do not seem to have made any progress in moving towards free movement of goods, services and people between the two countries.

Indian and New Zealand should explore new areas of participation for mutual benefit, since they are ‘Two bookends of Asia,’ as former Financial Express Chief Editor Dr Sanjay Baru said at the ‘Seriously Asia’ conference in Wellington in 2003.

Prime Minister John Key has also expressed New Zealand’s desire to achieve closer economic cooperation with India with subsidies and tariffs on agriculture and dairy products removed to facilitate greater trade flow.

“We need to pursue the Free Trade Agreement more aggressively,” he said.

The West moves

In the Northern hemisphere, the US, UK and the European Union are keen to promote better ties with ASEAN and India.

Apart from their faltering economies, leaders of the world’s most industrialised nations of the West perhaps have come to realise that bilateral trade relations and agreements with economic blocs offer better prospects for their exports than the doors of opportunities that the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was expected to open.

We believe that among the lasting benefits of such deals would be the destruction of economic walls and oppressive protectionist policies.

A KPMG commentary had earlier pointed out that in the current global economic environment, where there are increasingly strong pressures for protectionist trade policies in some quarters, it is important that barriers to trade continue to fall.

Arguably, the NZ-ASEAN free trade pact will provide a number of cash saving opportunities for our businesses trading with that region.

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