INZBC Summit 2022: Proposing a new approach to India trade relations
Identifying opportunities in the services, education, Ag Tech and merchandise trade to build strong business partnerships – was the central theme that emerged in this year’s India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) summit held on 11 November 2022 at Stamford Plaza in Auckland.
The Summit included the presence of Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nanaia Mahuta, Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand Ms. Neeta Bhushan besides a line-up of, business leaders, diplomats, sector experts and academics from New Zealand and India, to discuss the various issues of reimagining overall bilateral ties with a focus on increasing trade through building business partnerships between India and New Zealand.
In her keynote address, Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Local Government and Associate Minister for Maori Development said, “India is a priority relationship for New Zealand, with opportunities in the energy sector, technology and trade.”
The Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Neeta Bhushan, highlighted the importance of high-level ministerial visits in strengthening the relationships in light of Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar’s visit to New Zealand. She reminded the audience that India is now 5th largest economy and its growth rate makes it the fastest-growing economy for the next few years to come.
Ms Bhushan encouraged kiwi companies to work closer with India across sectors, “we need to work towards mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations in various sectors. Apart from agriculture and forestry trade, we can look at deepening collaborations in Agritech, Fintech, Education and renewable energy sectors. She also highlighted that India has a large untapped youth population.
During her time in New Zealand, High Commissioner will focus on five key areas: “developing and strengthening connectivity (people to people but more importantly by air), Tourism, Telecom and digitisation, Research & development, education and finally, traditional medicine”. This would indeed strengthen the bilateral ties even further.
The INZBC Chair, Earl Rattray welcomed the strong participation of around 200 in-person attendees and set the tone of the Summit by putting a spotlight on the road ahead for India and New Zealand’s trade relationship. He acknowledged that a different approach to the traditional Free Trade Agreements which have served us well in many markets will be needed for India .
He referred to the recent delegation visit to India, which included representatives from the big exporters right across the spectrum, to independent specialist consultancies, who were treated to a prime seat view of the new India.
Mr Rattray said, “Certainly, in the three years since trade delegation last visited India, the world has changed, and India has changed and impressively moved on.
Over the same time, the institutional frameworks on which globalisation and cross border trade rely on have been disturbed. The basic assumptions of peace, geopolitical stability, free movement of people and reliable trade flows are now are now being questioned, and featuring both business and national risk registers.
The delegation listened carefully to what India was telling us. India’s growth targets will be met largely through domestic production, consumption, and savings. That is exactly what is happening. The evidence of the courage and competence in getting things done to ignite growth in India is there for all to see, not least in infrastructure, Banking, Financial and health sectors.
While India will not be isolated from the world, it is clear it intends to not be dependent on the world. India has its development priorities, and reciprocal market access in the form of a conventional FTA’s with New Zealand, is not currently one of them, at least not in the near term”, he said.
Sharing similar views, David Blakey, Regional General Manager of BNZ, highlighted the importance of the Indian community in general and the business community in particular for their huge contribution to the NZ economy. He said, “the role of INZBC is crucial in taking the business and economic contribution to its next level and the recent high-level delegation was an important step in this direction. It is important to remember that we are moving into a new phase where relationship-driven economic relations will play an important role. It is also vital for both countries to continue to develop the areas of cooperation with new and innovative approaches.”
The first panel discussion focused on ‘Why India?’, opportunities for New Zealand business in India and the learnings of New Zealand business delegates visit to India. The panellists shared their views on opportunities for various sectors including banking, merchandise trade, diaspora and more, most of which echoed similar themes and insights as highlighted by the ministers and the commissioners.
Bhav Dhillon, Hon Consul of India in Auckland mentioned that, “The opportunities that Indian diaspora brings and the financial contribution it has been making over the decades cannot be ignored. New Zealand government needs to leverage on that to build a bridge.”
Simon Tucker from Fonterra said, “Dairy industry in India is one of the highest consumers of dairy products and despite its production, in the next 20 to 30 years may not be able to meet its demand. Thus, as a country and as a dairy industry it is may in time be staring at a large deficit to fill. Meanwhile it presents NZ with some great and innovative opportunities”.
Geoff Allot from Quality NZ and Michael Fox from Zespri reiterated the importance of investments in-market, to build the bases and grow from them. They shared their respective experiences in this area.
The conversation by panellists in the second session turned to the question to Why New Zealand and What makes New Zealand attractive to India?” contributing to discussion on supporting trade dialogue. The panel discussion outlined opportunities in the education, diaspora and increasing trade. The spotlight was on how services sector is an integral part of the bilateral trade but does not get that much of attention in the trade negotiations and policies.
Some of the sentiments expressed, were that career education leading to pathways and will become a natural expectation from the education provider by students. Need for transferable skills cannot be understated or underestimated and a heightened need to focus on being a ‘partner’ not a ‘poacher’.
Overall, the summit laid out some of the important steps for business leaders, experts and diaspora to take the bilateral relations to next level and in some sense “reimagine India-New Zealand ties”.
The closing remarks by Dr. Pushpa Bhardwaj-Wood, Wellington Chapter Head, INZBC, put the mood in the room aptly, as she said, “The message for New Zealand’s business’s who recently visited India, delivered through multiple signals, sums into just a few words... what works in India, for India, will also work for New Zealand.”
Contact for comments:
Earl Rattray, Chair, INZBC: 0274781333 | Chair@inzbc.org