New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has “finally” landed in New Delhi and is scheduled to meet his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in next few hours at 11.00 a.m. IST, the important question to be asked is if India will budge for New Zealand’s demand for a “high quality” FTA.

“High-quality FTA” is a relatively new term in trade negotiations around the world and New Zealand can safely claim proprietorship of this term.

A broad understanding of this new term in trade negotiations implies a preferential access to the New Zealand exporters in the host market, preferably in the primary sector – the dairy and meat sector to be precise.

Despite all hullabaloo of the perceived delay in signing of FTA with India after 10 rounds of negotiations, it should be acknowledged that the Indian side has already offered 90-95% reduction in tariffs to the New Zealand exporters.

It is only that New Zealand is adamant of getting a “high quality” FTA that has delayed the signing of a trade deal between the two countries.

It is important to acknowledge a facet of international politics where maximum room for diplomatic maneuvering is made available to negotiators when two sides have their own set of agendas that are very dear to them.

If New Zealand has their eyes set on a “high quality” FTA, then Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set his eyes on gaining NSG membership.

With a bilateral talk between the two leaders scheduled in next couple of hours in New Delhi, it is important to revisit expectations from this summit level talk.

There are reports that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been investing significant emotional capital in seeking support from the countries which had previously held back their support on India’s request for NSG membership at Seoul earlier this year.

With the next round of NSG plenary meeting scheduled in Vienna in November this year, chances are that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi  has created a lot of pressure of expectations on himself.

Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought, but not received, outright declarations of support from two other countries —South Africa and Brazil — at last week’s BRICS summit in Goa.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has quite intelligently relieved himself from any such expectation pressure.

He has been categorically denying any possibility of coming back with a signed FTA document.

By clearly articulating that his focus is on improving wider trade relations and political understanding between the two countries, along with discussing important issues of FTA and NSG, John Key has deflated any pressure on himself.

Technically, John key is placed better than Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to momentarily falter and get the prized “high-quality” FTA, in lieu of his support for India’s case in NSG in next plenary meeting in Vienna.

Next couple of hours could be crucial for bilateral relations between these two countries.  

Stay tuned with the Indian Weekender.