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Workshop on boosting India-NZ trade ties held in Wellington

by Venu Menon, Indian Weekender

Indian High Commissioner Neeta Bhushan hailed the recent visit to New Zealand by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaisankar as a signal that the two countries were “poised for massive growth in the coming months and years.”

She was addressing participants at a well-attended workshop, themed India Unplugged: Export–Import Pathways, conducted by the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) at the Indian High Commission in Wellington on November 25.

The initiative was spearheaded by Second Secretary (Political and Commercial Representative) Manoj Kumar Sahu on behalf of the Indian High Commission, Wellington.

High Commissioner Bhushan noted there was “political direction” coming from New Delhi to strengthen ties between the two countries, with their respective defence ministers engaging to discuss maritime cooperation on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting in Cambodia recently, which followed on the heels of the Indian Naval Chief’s visit to NZ and the signing of a White Shipping Agreement.

High Commissioner Bhushan projected India as one of the fastest-growing large economies, with a growth trajectory of around 7.12 per cent for the next few years.

India offered stability when other parts of the world faced economic and political uncertainty, she noted.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who prioritised ease of doing business, had instructed Indian high commissions around the world to cut red tape and simplify procedures and processes to attract investors, the high commissioner told the assembly.

She identified the sprawling Indian middle class with its high disposable income as a growing market for investors from outside.

“Please look at India with a long- term perspective,” she advised potential investors, urging them to visit India. “Building relationships and trust is important.”

The high commissioner offered the services of key enablers such as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) , Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Invest India to assist investors.

“Come to India with a spirit of collaboration,” the high commissioner urged investors, with special reference to NZ’s specialized sectors, such as agriculture and forestry, which she said could complement Indian partners to find solutions for perennial problems such as “stubble- burning in Delhi,” a major cause of pollution in the Indian capital.

Patrick Kouwenhoven, head of Infosys NZ, picked up the thread from the high commissioner’s speech and eyed India as a prime target for tech exports.

He said India was poised to become the world’s most populous country in two years’ time.

India was also “younger” than China, with an average age of 28.4 years (10 years younger than China).

The Infosys NZ head made the striking projection that tech exports from NZ would surpass dairy exports by 2027.

Hayden Douglas of the Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) dwelt on the “supply chain pain” experienced by businesses during the pandemic in the areas of procurement, manufacture and sale of products, both offshore and in New Zealand.

Lead times for procurement and shipping were extended during this period, typically from 1-3 months to 6-12 months, and beyond. This had a major impact on businesses’ working capital. As a result, businesses were “ordering significantly higher levels of stock,” which caused a severe drain on cash, since it was all tied up in stock. Add to that the rise in prices, which in turn affected business growth.

“This was a perfect storm for businesses,” he said. As a solution, BNZ continued to provide trade finance to struggling businesses.

Up next was Thomas Cheng of New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC), which was part of the Treasury, whose role was to work with exporters, banks and other agencies to help NZ exporters grow and manage risk internationally. Cheng described the products offered by NZEC to exporters, which included Insurance and guarantees.

Cheng listed the exports to India supported by NZEC, which included sectors such as agriculture and forestry, manufacturing, food and beverage and textiles.

This was followed by questions from the audience, which were mostly directed at the high commissioner. Typically, the questions centred around the bureaucratic hurdles and delays faced by businesses who engaged with the Government of India.

In response to a question on the need to verify the credentials of vendors based in India, INZBC Secretary Garry Gupta said: “There are some private verification firms in India which do these kinds of checks, at cost….also, chambers like CII and FICCI provide background checks.” He said INZBC, despite its limited resources, could also be emailed for help.

On a somewhat offbeat but relevant note, Intellectual Property Rights lawyer Peter Dengate Thrush raised awareness on the need for businesses to understand the value of intangible assets such as IP, citing some illustrious examples of companies with high IP value, such as Coca Cola, Microsoft, Apple, Rolls Royce and others.

Stressing the role of the Indian diaspora, Indian High Commission Second Secretary Durga Dass highlighted the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas annual convention organised by the Government of India to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community. He informed the gathering that the next two-day convention was to be held from 8 January 2023 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The theme is: “Diaspora- Reliable Partners for India’s Progress in Amrit Kaal.”

He invited the NZ diaspora to visit India to attend the forthcoming event.

Rachael Kerr of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) explained the agency’s role in helping NZ businesses move their goods and services around the world. The agency helped businesses “grow their capability and improve their global reach, invest in growth and connect to other businesses.”

INZBC Christchurch chapter head Sandeep Sharma summarised the presentations made at the session, which ended with the speakers receiving token presents from High Commissioner Neeta Bhushan.

Courtesy: Indian Weekender


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