It’s a pleasure to be here today. It’s my pleasure to address you as Leader of the Opposition and the largest party in our Parliament. Can I thank our hosts for their generous invitation to talk about the opportunities that exist between our two countries and in particular areas for greater cooperation between our respective business communities.
New Zealand's relationship with India is a deep and long-standing one. We are of course both committed members of the Commonwealth.
This relationship goes right back to the 1890s when travellers from India first arrived in New Zealand. It is to our mutual gain that this relationship has deepened significantly since then.
There are now some 200,000 people of Indian descent who call New Zealand home, working, studying, making a huge contribution to New Zealand society. My parliamentary colleagues Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi MP and Dr Parmjeet Parmar MP are fantastic examples of this. I’m very proud of the work they do for my party and New Zealand.
New Zealand and India are joined by a history of shared values and sacrifice.
New Zealand’s sacrifice at Gallipoli during World War One is often cited in our national story as we remember those who gave their lives defending freedom.
But we were not alone on ANZAC Cove. We stood shoulder to shoulder with our friends from India, along with Australians, Brits and French amongst others.
We stood together then and we will continue to stand together now defending shared values and freedom.
The most important value we share and have fought for is our commitment to democracy.
India is the world’s largest democracy. The most recent election in India saw more people voting than total votes ever cast in New Zealand during our 179 year history.
We trade with one another, sharing goods and services, creating wealth and prosperity for our citizens.
Our people visit each other, living in, learning in and experiencing each other’s countries.
While we sometimes test that friendship on the cricket pitch, I am constantly reminded of the enormous affection that India has for New Zealand. I am reliably informed that 1.25 billion Indians were supporting the Black Caps in the World Cup Final in July. In fact, it was said to me today here in India that the Black Caps didn’t actually lose the Cricket World Cup final, they just didn’t quite win it either.
We need to be ambitious about translating this mutual affection for each other’s countries into mutual opportunities. Leveraging every opportunity to do more with each other.
Travel and tourism
Visitors from India to New Zealand have more than doubled since 2011, with over 67,000 Indian tourists visiting New Zealand last year. India is New Zealand’s second largest source of international students, with over 29,000 Indian students studying in New Zealand.
Our systems are not perfect. Presently, too many Indian nationals wanting to visit New Zealand for tourism or study face unreasonably long delays with Immigration New Zealand. This did not used to be the case. Visa processing times have slipped significantly over the last two years. This uncertainty is now having a significant impact on tourism affecting smaller tourism businesses and international education providers who are losing out on this important market.
This year alone tens of millions of dollars have been lost to New Zealand companies because students and visitors have not had their visas issues in time to start their studies or take their trip. This level of uncertainty is unacceptable and I call on the New Zealand Government to invest in the Indian market and urgently fix this problem before more harm is done. This is not how we should be treating nationals from a respected and valued friend like India.
Earlier this year, I committed the National Party to a bold new trade agenda which includes completing the India-NZ FTA. We firmly believe that freer trade between nations is the best way to gain mutual benefits, to secure growth, and to build a more prosperous world.
In New Zealand, trade secures $82 billion worth of exports in goods and services, has helped create 600,000 jobs and is responsible for a higher standard of living and better quality of life for New Zealanders.
New Zealand’s story is one that shows the value free trade can deliver. It is not zero sum: when we trade together, we prosper together. India is an extremely important market for New Zealand. This year we reached over $3 billion in two way trade.
India currently imports about $680 million worth of goods like timber, wool, aluminium and fruit from New Zealand while New Zealand imports about $615 million worth of medicines, machinery and textiles from India.
Over the past five years our services trade has also increased quickly, since 2013 we have seen a 64 per cent increase and we have seen almost double the number of tourists from India come to New Zealand in the last year.
Many New Zealand businesses are bolstered by our relationship and directly benefit from strengthening the ties between our nations.
An example of this is Indian conglomerate Tata investing in a second consultancy office in New Zealand in Wellington recently opened by my Economic Development and Trade spokesman, Todd McClay.
While our economic prospects have been positive, by contrast, our two-way trade with India is only about one tenth of our trade with China. If we are to continue to grow the bilateral relationship, we must innovate and put our best foot forward.
John Key made two state visits to India in his time as Prime Minister. The last National Government saw frequent Ministerial visits to India to deepen and broaden our bilateral relationship.
Since the swearing-in of the current Government almost two years ago, no New Zealand Ministers have visited India. If we are going to make serious progress in our relationship with India, our Government needs to demonstrate our commitment.
The last National Government was deeply committed to the India relationship.
The cornerstone of this work was our hard work to initiate free trade negotiations between New Zealand and India.
Trade will continue to build in the absence of one but real opportunity and benefit for Indian and NZ businesses will only be properly realised when a trade deal is completed.
A free trade deal with India is important for a number of reasons:
- It would help address the current barriers to trade we currently see between our countries.
- New Zealand companies currently face high tariffs. For example, kiwifruit is charged a 30 per cent tariff at the border. Similarly, New Zealand milk and cheese is hit with high tariffs which place a barrier that, while not insurmountable for New Zealand companies, raise costs for Indian consumers.
- Increasing the competitiveness of New Zealand goods in India has the potential to make us both better off. Better access for New Zealand businesses allows us to connect with the huge and growing demand in India for such products. This is a win-win scenario.
- Seizing this opportunity for New Zealand businesses to sell India high quality products to support India’s growth. We already export hundreds of millions of dollars of logs, wool, aluminium and fruit but the growth of India coupled with a New Zealand committed to trade would help unleash further opportunities for our countries
We have also been actively engaging in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations which, if successful would see increased trade across the Asia-Pacific and between India and New Zealand.
Refreshing the NZ-India Strategy
The last National government launched the NZ Inc India Strategy, a plan for securing a greater partnership with India across economic and political lines.
That strategy set a number of goals including:
- Growing our trade to $2 billion by 2015, a step we have now easily surpassed
- Growing our merchandise exports and services trade
- Improving the bilateral investment framework and facilitating growth in the investment relationship.
- Engaging more deeply with India on regional and global issues that will impact on New Zealand’s future prosperity and security.
- And to raise the profile of New Zealand’s in India
The NZ-India strategy is almost a decade old. We need to look at it again in Government as an early priority and refresh our ambitions. We need to renew our commitment to a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement covering goods, services, and investment. We need to take into account the growing influence of the Indo-Pacific. We need to improve our political contacts. In short, we will make India a key priority for foreign affairs and trade policy.
We know through experience that transport links between countries are the fastest accelerators of growth in tourism and trade. When I was Minister of Transport, I signed an air services agreement with the Indian Government to allow for code-sharing of airline services between New Zealand and India. It is now time for us to prepare for the next step. The Government I lead will champion a direct flight between Auckland and Mumbai as the first stage in deepening our relationship.
What we now need to do
Today we have opportunities in front of us that we must seize if we want to see this relationship deepen, grow and prosper.
India is the world’s fastest growing major economy in recent years and by 2020 is expected to be world’s 5th largest.
With that growth, there is the opportunity for increased trade.
New Zealand must ensure we are not sitting on our laurels. New Zealand understands that India is a fast growing country and we want to ensure the foundation of our relationship we built over the past years is built on.