Business leaders are urging the New Zealand government to increase the presence of its designated trade officials on the ground in India if it was really focussed on enhancing and deepening bilateral trade between the two nations. 

Sameer Handa, Chair of India New Zealand Business Council - the three-decade-old premier trade body for facilitating bilateral trade between the two countries - led the call while speaking at a panel discussion hosted by Asia New Zealand Foundation today via an online webinar. 

He was ably supported by Brett O’Riley, Chief Executive, Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) in emphasizing the need for more boots on the ground to make meaningful inroads in a market that many experts argue will grow more rapidly in a post-Covid-19 environment. 

Mr Handa and Mr Riley were speaking in an online webinar hosted by Asia New Zealand Foundation - the premium body for preparing New Zealanders to engage with Asia - along with other co panellists Kenneth Leong, and Auckland businessman and Caroline Bilkey - Assistant Secretary/ Director of the Auckland office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, on Thursday, June 4. 

The panel discussion was moderated by Felicity Roxburgh, Director Business at Asia NZ Foundation, which later ended with a concluding remark from Simon Draper, the Executive Director of the Foundation. 

Asia NZ Foundation bats for business ties with Asia, for post covid economic recovery

The panel discussion was started by Ms Roxburgh with a starting statement that sought to probe further about the local Chinese and Indian diaspora businesses in Auckland and wider New Zealand with an intention how a deeper understanding and coordination with their linkages can assist in the economic recovery process for NZ. 

The objective of the discussion was to flush out more information about the broader diaspora business ecosystem within New Zealand that largely flourished on the linkages with their respective countries of origin in Asia, (Aucklanders of Chinese & Indian ethnicity constitutes 30 per cent of the city population)  with an intention to build upon those linkages to during these post-covid environments to ensure trade & economic growth. 

Call for an enhanced ground presence of trade officials in India

It was during this eclectic endeavour that business leaders pointed towards the relatively emaciated presence of boots on the ground in India. 

“We need to see the government increase its presence on the ground in India if it was serious on its goal of increasing its bilateral trade between the two countries,” Mr Handa said. 

“This is hugely different from our Trans-Tasman partner Australia which has multiple trade commissioners in multiple cities across India,” Mr Handa said. 

Notably, there is only one Trade Commissioner based in the Mumbai office of the New Zealand Consulate General. 

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) is the New Zealand government's international business development agency, which appoints Trade commissioners in several key markets across the world with the goal of promoting bilateral trade. 

Supporting the call Mr Riley also reiterated the importance of having more experienced hands on the ground to facilitate two-way conversations and engagement between businesses keen to operate in that particular market. 

Funding for NZTE doubled as a response to Covid-19

It is important to note that the Minister for Trade & Export Growth David Parker had separately told the Indian Weekender in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, June 3, that the government had doubled the funding for NZTE. (Watch the full interview here) 

In that regard, it would be interesting to see if the current government eventually increases its ground presence in India by opening more Trade offices and demonstrating its commitment to the Indian market.