PM, New Zealand counterpart agree on free trade talks

Hamilton (New Zealand), Nov 30 (Inditop.com) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his New Zealand counterpart John Key have agreed to start formal negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) next year, a newspaper report here said.

Key and Manmohan Singh met during the meeting of the heads of Commonwealth governments in Trinidad and Tobago Sunday.

According to the report The Dominion Post, Key described the meeting as one of the most positive he has had with a foreign leader. He added that the Indian prime minister wanted scoping on the details of the FTA to be completed on time for formal talks to start next year.

The Indian prime minister was also reported to have invited Key to India.

“He really wanted me to go, he wanted to make progress he thought that the relationship between India and New Zealand was very strong. He’s keen to progress the trade agreement, he can see all of the arguments around that,” Key was reported to have said.

India-New Zealand Trade Business Council chairman Wenceslaus Anthony described the development as encouraging.

Last week, Anthony had said hi-tech industries in New Zealand were interested in entering the Indian market.

“While Indian agriculture is highly protected, improved access for our agricultural and primary produce, especially in an added-value form, needs to be one of the key focuses of the (FTA) negotiations,” Anthony told IANS on the sidelines of the launch of the council’s chapter in Christchurch.

He had also noted that New Zealand’s exports to India have increased dramatically in the past two years, with coal accounting for NZ$344 million (US$244 million), almost half of the total exports of NZ$653 million (US$464 million) to India.

Other products he identified were meat and value-added food items and wine, wood and wood products.

In a recent report to the ministry of foreign trade and external affairs, the council said dairy products could also be a major export item for New Zealand and needed to be addressed in the FTA negotiations.