New Zealand and India can engage better in RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) – a proposed free trade agreement between the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the six Asia-Pacific states, including NZ and India – than the bilateral Free Trade Agreement, says Barney Riley, the Lead Negotiator for RCEP.

Mr Riley was speaking at a recent event organised by the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) on Wednesday, April 10, hosted at WelTec and Whitireia’s NZ Institute of Creativity, in Wellington.

The recently appointed Lead Negotiator of RCEP for New Zealand remained hopeful that the bilateral trade figures between NZ-India can improve significantly in the near future from the current $2.7 billion marks.

Speakers getting a book on India

Explaining New Zealand’s current global trade outlook, Mr Riley said, “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 with rules-based systems coming under increasing stress, rising global protectionism, and a geopolitical deterioration,” Mr Riley said.

Calling upon India to play a leadership role commensurate to its sheer size and increasing economic and strategic weight Mr Riley said, “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,” Mr Riley said.