With dairy being the stumbling block in getting a full free trade agreement (FTA) between India and New Zealand across the line anytime soon, the in-negotiation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), maybe the way forward for India-NZ trade ties to grow.

This is according to Robert Barker, Chairman of India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC), who was speaking on February 22, at the Council's first event of the Christchurch chapter this year.

“This is definitely the route which indicates progress at this stage, and we have seen some good intentions from the new Labour Government as regards to this. The two PMs (India's and NZ's) who met late last year in Manila, have both expressed their desire in carrying this forward. INZBC, as one of the many stakeholders, always keeps putting forward our views to the concerned authorities.”  

About RCEP

There are 16 countries involved in RCEP: the 10 members of ASEAN—Brunei-Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam plus the six countries with which ASEAN has free trade agreements—Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand. These six countries are known as the ASEAN Free Trade Partners (AFPs).

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, “RCEP has the potential to increase business across the board in New Zealand. It’s a comprehensive agreement covering trade in goods, trade in services, investment, economic and technical cooperation, intellectual property, competition, e-commerce (digital trade), dispute settlement/legal and institutional issues. New Zealand already has FTAs with some of the countries involved in RCEP, and has concluded TPP negotiations with several others. Existing FTAs will remain in place, and RCEP will help create new FTA relationships where they do not already exist. It may also be an opportunity to improve at the margin on some of our existing agreements.”

Meanwhile, the event called India Unplugged saw two notable speakers sharing their insights on the Indian market. First was Jo Pennycuick, Managing Director, Redesign Group – which works in the hospitality, commercial and retail sectors designing spaces within airports and malls around the world.

Speaker Jo Penny (Picture: INZBC)

“We have had the opportunity to work in many airports in India including Delhi T3, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Hyderabad and Mumbai,” she said.

Gareth Williamson, Airline Development Manager, Christchurch Airport, who to the disappointment of the gathered crowd said, “The Indian Government must allow India's network carriers to operate free of constraining regulations around growth and ownership, and to ease border costs for travellers.

Speaker Gareth Williamson (Picture: INZBC)

Also, without a full FTA or even a RCEP, route economics dictates that a direct flight between India and New Zealand is at least three to five years away, in my opinion.”  

The evening concluded with an address by Hitesh Sharma, who took over as the Head of the Christchurch chapter in January this “I am excited with the prospect of supporting Canterbury businesses expand their horizons in the Indian and Asian markets. Having the INZBC platform will allow us to connect businesses in New Zealand with opportunities available in India and vice versa. The next INZBC event is our annual summit in Auckland. But we will also plan another event in Christchurch later this year,” he said.  year, and had organised the event.