Hon Todd McClay, New Zealand’s newly appointed Minister for Trade, Agriculture, Forestry, Hunting & Fishing, delivered a forward-looking speech, at the INZBC End of the Year event, held at SKYCITY in Auckland on 29 November 2023.
Alongside him was Patron and Honorary Consul of India, Bhav Dhillon, who also shared insights into the evolving NZ-India relationship. Addressing a gathering of exporters, sector representatives, diplomats, and leaders, Minister McClay outlined his government’s ambitious agenda to grow New Zealand’s trade and international relations, with particular emphasis on India.
McClay stressed the significance of the bilateral relationship, declaring, “India, for many reasons, is a relationship of paramount importance to New Zealand.” He emphasised the government’s proactive role in trade and said, “Government’s role today is much broader [...] – itis about shaping the brand and the story behind it. Opening doors. Helping to make connections.”
In line with this broadened scope, he announced his intention to visit India before Christmas, underlining the importance of direct engagement in strengthening ties.
Shifting Focus from Volume to Value in Exports
In a significant policy shift, McClay announced a new direction for the nation’s trade policy. Moving away from the traditional metric of the number of deals signed, he said the focus would now be on enhancing the value of New Zealand’s exports.
The minister stated, “Historically we’ve judged the success of our trade policy on the number of deals that we’ve negotiated and signed. We think there should be another metric on how much more we export and sell overseas by value - not by volume.”
McClay discussed the need to maximise the value of existing trade agreements. He acknowledged New Zealand’s history of signing bilateral and regional free trade agreements since the 1980s, which have been instrumental in creating a level playing field for exporters.
However, he noted, “To unlock their full value, trade agreements need to be effectively leveraged.”
In line with this, the minister revealed an ambitious goal: “That is why we are targeting a doubling of the value of exports over 10 years.” This included engaging with India to remove unnecessary costs and barriers, thereby creating significant commercial value for exporters, even in the absence of a formal Free Trade Agreement.
Exploring sectoral opportunities in India
McClay also discussed the multifaceted and growing connections between New Zealand and India, highlighting various sectors where New Zealand businesses could provide value. “New Zealand businesses provide terrific value to India. We truly present leading expertise, experience, technology, and a practical edge that can make a tremendous impact when paired with India’s economic capabilities and ambitions,” he said. The minister laid out the government’s approach to sectoral opportunities, ranging from agriculture, education to air connectivity and business-to-business infrastructure.
Acknowledging key sectors such as aviation, F&B, manufacturing, IT and tech services, McClay praised New Zealand companies for their innovation and agility in the Indian market and expressed appreciation for the INZBC’s role in fostering business relations. The recent 50-person business delegation to India was highlighted as a significant step in deepening bilateral ties.
In conclusion, he stressed the importance of government-private sector collaboration, stating, “It is essential that the government works in partnership with the private sector and builds on the work you have all been so committed to so far.”
The minister’s pledge to visit India before the end of the year is a testament to New Zealand’s commitment to actively enhancing its trade relationship with India, marking a bold chapter in the NZ-India partnership.