“With India having the largest population of people below 35years, it’s the ‘Young India’, that New Zealanders need to understand. Modern India is a different world”. These were some of the insights shared by Suzannah Jessep, the former NZ Deputy High Commissioner to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and current Director, Research and Engagement, Asia NZ Foundation.
Suzannah was speaking at a recent event organised by the India New Zealand Business Council [INZBC] on 10th April 2019 hosted at WelTec and Whitireia’s NZ Institute of Creativity, in Wellington. The theme of the day was Perspectives on India: Diplomacy and Trade.
Victoria Spackman, Director - Te Auaha, welcomed the attendees and outlined the fantastic work that WelTec and Whitireia NZ do in the creative arts space in Wellington. The event was moderated by INZBC board member, Esther Guy-Meakin, who is the manager - international trade at Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Speaking about her experiences in India, Suzannah shared, “I was struck by how dynamic and fast moving urban India is, and how the opportunities present in modern India are in many ways unparalleled. India is a place where great ideas can go seriously viral, and if you get your business right, then you have a potential reach into the hundreds of millions (depending, of course, on what you are offering).”
She reiterated the importance of people-to-people relations in both trade and diplomacy; “From what I observed, building reliable, trusted networks are critical to achieving this success in India. This was true for me, in government and diplomatic circles, and equally true for the New Zealand companies I saw navigating India.”
Suzannah added further, that it’s not all about trade; “Increasingly, the aperture through which we have been viewing the NZ-India relationship has been widening, with many recognising that the potential in the India-NZ relationship lies equally in fostering our social capital or ‘people-to-people linkages.’ Much like our advice to the private sector, building long term, trusted networks that are based on respect and shared values supports our wider bilateral interests, including our trade ambitions. Done well, these networks can also shape the systems in which we operate and in turn, deliver outcomes that contribute to the prosperity and safety of both of our nations”, she commented.
Perspectives on Trade
A second speaker, Barney Riley, Lead Negotiator, Trade and Economic Group, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, discussed perspectives on trade. Barney has recently been appointed as the lead negotiator of RCEP for New Zealand. RCEP is a Free Trade Agreement with the ten ASEAN states and six Asia-Pacific States including India.
While reiterating that good trade policy matters for our prosperity, well-being and livelihoods, Barney highlighted that the ‘Golden Weather’ for New Zealand trade Policy and globalisation has ended and we need to have a strong Trade Policy strategy to deal with growing protectionism.
Speaking on India-NZ trade relations, he said that while India remains our 11th largest trading partner, there is much more to achieve. Barney noted that compared to China’s export record which has reached $12 billion in goods, India is only at $600-700 million, and unlike services, goods exports have been static for the last few years”. He explained that India’s protectionism is becoming harder to understand; “Yes, serious challenges related to poverty, development, demography and the environment persist. But India is now a major player in the global order. Not just through sheer scale at 1.3 billion people, but also its growing economic clout and its increasingly outward-looking foreign policy. There is a role for Indian leadership in international trade, and it can’t carry out that role if its borders remain closed. In that context, RCEP has significant advantages over our bilateral FTA process. It’s not just a commercial opportunity but has clear strategic benefit for both countries.”
Barney said that the period 1995-2018 has been the ‘Golden Weather’ for New Zealand trade policy. “With the establishment of the WTO, reduction of global protectionism, facilitated by FTAs and a functioning international rules-based system, all lead to a period of golden weather.”
However, in 2019, this outlook is very different. Barney explained, “rules-based systems are under serious stress, global protectionism is no longer declining (but growing) and there is geopolitical deterioration. With the US-China situation, IndoPacific, South China Sea, Brexit and US return to unilateralism, there is greater stress to the international rules-based trading system.”
Barney argues that New Zealand does have a trade policy strategy to deal with it; “Our top priority remains to defend the rules-based system. We are working to embed New Zealand in the emerging regional economic architecture, through CPTPP, Pacific Alliance, advance RCEP, etc. We have developed the ‘Trade for All’ agenda, to ensure that trade policy delivers sustainable and inclusive economic development for the benefit of all.”
“We are also ensuring better use of NZ agencies on-shore and off-shore to help our exporters through economic diplomacy”, said Mr Riley.
In these circumstances, New Zealand hopes that the RCEP negotiations are concluded this year, after six years of negotiations, as there is a real risk that the process cannot sustain another failure to conclude this year.
The event was attended by a visiting delegation from New Delhi, representing the Indian Council of World Affairs. The delegation’s head, Mr. Soumen Bagchi, DDG, ICWA, addressed the gathering and highlighted the recent progress made by India in the world economy and bilateral ties in the pacific and beyond. He reiterated the success of India’s ‘Act East’ policy by the Narendra Modi government. Also addressing the members and dignitaries, was Michael Wood (Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities), who was appreciative of the efforts of INZBC in engaging with the business community of both countries, to keep the dialogue going. He highlighted the good work being done by the ethnic communities in New Zealand which helps in progressing the people-to-people relations between India and New Zealand.
The INZBC Wellington Chapter head, Sushrutha Metikurke added, “The event had a great turnout with participants sharing their insights and perspectives on the New Zealand-India trade relationship. It was a very successful start to the year for the Wellington Chapter.
We hope to organise more such events in Wellington and am keen to hear from our stakeholders about how INZBC Wellington Chapter can better support them in strengthening their ties with India.”