By Pattrick Smellie
Stalled free trade negotiations between New Zealand and India have taken a positive step forward with more talks scheduled.
Indian Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh has committed to schedule the next round of talks following a meeting in New Delhi with his New Zealand counterpart, Nathan Guy.
Leading a business delegation to India to promote trade links and next year's Cricket World Cup, Mr Guy told a business lunch in Mumbai that work is now under way to schedule the 10th round of talks on a bi-lateral free trade agreement.
"It's real. Officials are scrambling," Mr Guy told BusinessDesk of plans for a 10th round of negotiations for a FTA, which the New Zealand government began pursuing in 2011.
Despite a population similar to China's, two-way trade between India and New Zealand is barely $1.1 billion, compared to the explosion to more than $20 billion with China since a FTA was signed in 2008.
However, the talks foundered as the Indian economy weakened and the political fortunes of the Congress Party-led government of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh deteriorated.
The election of a new government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has raised hopes the talks might be reignited.
"The 10th round has taken too long to get going," Mr Guy said.
However, Mr Mohan's statement was notable for its failure to mention the biggest sticking point in negotiations - a deal that would include New Zealand dairy access into India.
The country is the world's largest dairy products producer, selling mainly to its domestic market, and there is widespread popular antipathy to trade liberalisation that could harm India's domestic markets.
Mr Mohan said it was seeking to increase in India's exports to New Zealand and expressed interest in New Zealand's agricultural and fresh produce supply chain management technologies.
"India would also be interested in scientific exchanges in the fields of pasture management for sheep, management of mutton-type sheep and exchange of programmes of experts from government sheep farms."
Mr Guy said there was a "sense of purpose and desire from both sides to make progress on a bilateral FTA".
source: newshub archive