The Indian business community in New Zealand has valuable experience and expertise which will be useful in fostering bilateral relations with India, a Minister of the Crown has said.
Ethnic Affairs Minister Pansy Wong said New Zealand was keen to take its relations with India to the next higher level and that successful conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) would provide the necessary impetus.
“We do understand that such an Agreement would take a few years to come about but the National Government is keen to utilise the opportunities available now. There are thousands of people of Indian origin in New Zealand involved in business as entrepreneurs, manufacturers, exporters, importers and professionals. Their opinions and advice would be invaluable in our efforts to promote stronger ties,” she said.
Ms Wong was speaking to the media on the sidelines of a Business Forum hosted by her Ministry, in conjunction with the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, Internal Affairs and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise at the Langham Hotel in Auckland on August 12.
The first session comprised speeches on the current and future prospects by Indian High Commissioner Retired Admiral Sureesh Mehta, ANZ India Chief Executive Subhas Degamia and New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary John Allen.
The Forum, held under the theme, Exploring the Opportunities and Challenges of Doing Business with India had a panel of experts deliberating on the key findings of Think Tank Discussion workshop held during the day.
Moderated by Asia NZ Foundation Trustee Tony Nowell, the Panel comprised Waitakere City Council Chief Executive Vijaya Vaidyanath, India New Zealand Business Council Chairman Wenceslaus Antony, NZTE South Asia and South East Asia International Marketing Manager Don Rae, Mr Allen and Mr Degamia.
“We have not properly utilised the expertise of the community which has grown strong with more than 110,000 people, many of who are doing business with India. We need to listen to them and learn from their experience.
“New Zealand is a small country engaged with large economies and our efforts to negotiate a FTA with India will be more meaningful and successful with the necessary input from our own people,” she said.
Earlier, inaugurating the Business Forum, she said doing business with India was “daunting and exciting.”
“We are looking at a country that has the world’s fourth largest economy, in which the middle class alone accounts for 260 million people. The market has immense potential for growth and we are keen to enhance our partnership with India at every possible level,” she said.
“This Forum will provide a great opportunity for participants to share ideas about the special business relationship between the two countries. I also see it as a platform for providing feedback and ideas to the Government on ways in which it can support the business community in facilitating commercial relationships between us.”
Mr Mehta said it was ironical that India lost everything during the British rein.
“India was known for its international trade and robust economic growth but lost the status under the British Empire, which was preceded by the East India Company, established primarily to do business with India.
“But Modern India has a vision of the future and as the largest English speaking country on earth and as one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it offers exciting prospects for traders and investors,” he said.
He said modern India accounted for 29 States and six union territories, each with its own unique characteristics, language, cuisine, culture and business practices.
“Our Government’s policy is ‘inclusive growth,’ providing equal opportunities for businesses throughout the country to optimise growth in all areas.
“With an increasing young population (estimated to reach 400 million by 2025), it would be the leading supplier of human capital to the world.
“Every country wants to do business with India, which is today rated the third most investment friendly country in the world,” he said.
Mr Degamia said the sheer numbers in population were astounding.
“Within the next 20 years, there will be 590 million people living in cities, while the number of cities with one million or more people will rise to 68,” he said.
Mr Allen described the existing relationship with India as ‘pathetic,’ but believed that bilateral relations could get stronger with a better strategy.
“The media continues to highlight the risks involved in engaging with India but does not inform enough about the opportunities available to do business,” he said.
About 150 businesspersons attended the Forum.
Among them were traders, management teams seeking investors with capital and connections in Indian business; and government officials working to strengthen connection with counterparts in the Indian Government.
Pansy Wong speaking at the conference
Panellists, from left Moderator Tony Nowell, Don Rae, Wenceslaus Anthony, Subhag Digamma, Vijaya Vaidyanath and John Allen