A tribute to Sir Michael Cullen: Closer ties will benefit New Zealand economy

Dr Michael Cullen, then Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister, with Arjun Singh, then Union Minister for Human Resources Development, India in New Delhi on October 1, 2007 (PIB)

Dr Michael Cullen
Wellington, August 13, 2008

Editor’s Note: The following article, written for Indian Newslink and published in our August 15, 2008 issue (India Independence Special) has been reproduced here as a tribute to Dr Michael Cullen who passed away on August 19, 2021 in Whakatane, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty region of Northland, New Zealand.

It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this special edition of Indian Newslink, which celebrates the 61st birthday of the world’s largest democracy.

I do not need to emphasise to the readers of this newspaper the very special relationship that exists between India and New Zealand or tell you about the importance of India to New Zealand’s ongoing economic transformation.

When I travelled overseas last spring in order to foster opportunities for New Zealand-based companies, India was on my itinerary because of the tremendous potential available to New Zealand-based companies from better-integrated links with Indian research and development centres and businesses.

Growing Powerhouse

India’s growing role as an economic powerhouse, as well as the home base to a host of world-class, centres of scientific research and development, makes it a leader in the Asia-Pacific region.

There is no question that New Zealand must cement strong relationships with India, in order to leverage most of the opportunities that will be available in the future.

Strong international business relations and research connections are critical ingredients in our own trading nation’s efforts to promote our transformation into higher skill, higher-value knowledge-led economy.

As a small trading nation, which is physically far away from all of our export markets, New Zealand has a strong interest in progressing fair global rules around trade.

Multilateral steps essential

We have a strong self-interest in multilateral steps to remove unfair barriers to trade, particularly in trade in farm products, which have failed to drop in tandem with the easing barriers on trade in services and goods in recent decades.

But complementary to our primary efforts to promote multilateral trade through the World Trade Organisation, the New Zealand government is also heavily engaged in bilateral talks with individual trading partners.

And while media coverage has naturally tended to focus on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China, it should not be overlooked that we are also making better-than-expected progress in talks aimed at a possible future FTA with India.

Study Group for FTA

An officials’ Joint Study Group launched last year has been looking at the feasibility of an agreement and it has met twice and expects to complete its work and report to governments before the end of the year.

Our government awaits with interest the outcome of the Joint Study Group process to determine how we can make progress in a way, which offers gain to both economies.

India is home to one of the world’s oldest civilisations.

And at the same time, India is a place of the future.

It is an enormous, dynamic economy destined to play an increasingly powerful role in the world, including the economy of the Asia-Pacific region.

In many ways, and at many levels, India represents diversity and hope – it is a republic of many communities and languages – confident, tolerant and comfortable enough with itself for a person’s home language or religion not to be a barrier to reaching the very highest public office or fully succeeding in business or sport.

From a New Zealand perspective, it is critical that we make a strong effort to forge closer economic, political and cultural ties with India so that we can share in India’s growing wealth.

And there is a special role for New Zealanders with family, business and cultural links to the subcontinent to facilitate the process of New Zealand making the most out of our growing relationship.

Dr Michael Cullen (who died on August 19, 2021) was Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister of New Zealand when he wrote the above article for Indian Newslink.

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