Bilateral relationships gain value in multilateral environment

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Todd McClay

As a small trading nation, New Zealand depends on the strong relationships we can build with friends and partners overseas.

For us to succeed, we need to be ambitious about trade and seek to break new ground, secure new relationships, and deliver better opportunities for everyone in New Zealand.

That is especially true in the current global context.

We currently exist in a period of trade uncertainty. Global tensions, uncertainty at the World Trade Organisation and major events like Brexit all add to a tenser global scene.

New Zealand in demand

But in this current context, New Zealand’s role is clear.

The world clearly wants to buy what New Zealand has to sell. We are seeing record and near record high prices for our goods overseas and exports levels are growing.

The slowdown in growth we have seen in New Zealand is down to policy settings made in New Zealand, not as a result of global uncertainty.

Even as trade across the world faces headwinds, New Zealand is well paced to turn this uncertainty into opportunity.

Promoting exporters

The way we do this is to ensure we are putting the work in with our global partners and securing deals that lead to better access for our exporters.

This is where the value of bilateral relationships in a multilateral world becomes particularly relevant. It is through securing strong bilateral relations that New Zealand can secure new opportunities.

Links with India

India is an excellent example of a partner New Zealand can and should be working closely with to seize new prospects.

New Zealand and India have deep links forged through a shared history, a faith in democracy and strong person to person links.

The Indian community in New Zealand makes up about 4% of the total population and Hindi is the fourth most spoke language here. Last year alone, over 34,000 visitors came to New Zealand from India and over 20,000 students came to study.

Our relationship is strong and working together in trade makes sense.

We can deepen our relationship through trade. India is New Zealand a seventh largest trading partner, our largest in all of South and South East Asia, and there is a huge amount of room for growth.

Reservations on RCEP

Already India and New Zealand trade about $3 billion worth of goods and services.

Every time our people do business, we strengthen our ties.

This is why the previous National Government was committed to pursuing trade deals with India.

We worked on starting negotiations for a free trade agreement as well as engaging in negotiations for the multilateral Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

However, India has made it clear that there are reservations for them still in the multilateral RCEP.

This should not close the door for New Zealand to push for an ambitious deal with India ourselves.

Significant Strategy

Our bilateral relationship adds value to our efforts to secure deeper links to India and it is something National is committed to furthering.

Under the previous National Government, we saw the importance of our bilateral relationship symbolised by the efforts made to organise the then Prime Minister John Key to visit Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India.

Moreover, we launched the India – New Zealand Inc strategy which outlined an agenda for closer economic relations.

That is another value of the country to country relationships New Zealand forges, we can push for closer partnerships on a range of issues outside of the trade of goods and services.

This is why our leader Simon Bridges, recently travelled to India and talked of the value of adding new flight connections between our countries, refreshing the Government’s economic strategy with India and fostering our trade relationship.

It is important that we are not complacent.

We must prioritise relationships with important partners.

Opportunities like this are able to exist because of the strong bilateral relationship we have.

Todd McClay is an elected Member of Parliament from Rotorua and National Party Spokesperson for Trade, Economic Development, Workplace Relations & Safety and Tourism.

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