Speech to the Confederation of Indian Industry in New Delhi

Trade and Export Growth

Tena koutou and Namaskar. It is great to be back in India and to have the opportunity to speak to you all today about how we can take the India-New Zealand relationship to the next level.

The case for New Zealand doing more with India is clear.

India is an important partner for New Zealand in the Indo-Pacific.

India is moving closer to key partners in the region, including Australia, the US, and Japan as well as our neighbours in South East Asia. 

India’s interest in the South West Pacific is also growing and we welcome your engagement.

India’s demography and economic weight present economic opportunities for both countries. 

New Zealand’s India-origin diaspora, which is currently 5% of our population and growing, creates a human bridge between our two countries.

As we look to step up our relationship, we are mindful that “India is different and requires a different approach”.  This message came through loud and clear in the India-New Zealand Business Council’s insightful report.

If we have learned anything over the last 10 years, it’s that a short term, narrow and transactional approach won’t work with India. We need to understand that India sees its relationship with New Zealand in broad terms.

And we respect this.

The political, defence and security, people-to-people, cultural and economic elements of the relationship are all linked. Our relationship with India has these partnerships at its core; the reason we are together is our shared history and our shared values.

Trade is not just a transaction. Trade is sharing that flows from these human connections.

As a Government, we have been working on building a holistic relationship with India. Our economic cooperation needs to be based on mutual benefit.

This means supporting India’s development aspirations in a way that benefits both countries’ sectors. 

We have also just had a fantastic example of this cooperation. 

Last week India made a monumental achievement in landing a craft on the South Pole of the Moon.

And there is a New Zealand connection. Kiwi company Rakon’s GPS components literally helped guide India’s successful Chandrayaan [pronounced Chan-Dry-Arn] three mission to the moon.

It shows that the sky is the limit as far as our cooperation goes.  And what a wonderful example of the success of India’s science and technology sector.

Let us also not forget the significant potential for Indian exporters to New Zealand.

I would like to acknowledge India’s business representatives here who also put in the hard yards with their New Zealand counterparts. 

Our market is small but it is also high value and well regulated. With only US$700 million in imports from India, each year there is room to grow. 

I welcome, for example, the interest that Pharmexcil, which is responsible for the promotion of India’s pharmaceutical exports, been showing in New Zealand recently.

So how can take our relationship with India to the next level?

One call that has come through clearly from the business community is that we need to be present in India.

New Zealand, as the smaller partner, needs to put the effort in.

Obviously, the people in this room understand this message well. The fact that so many businesses have made the journey today is testament to your commitment.

As a Government, we can support you and the relationship by ensuring a regular pattern of Ministerial and Prime Ministerial engagement.

While I hate to say it, I think we can learn a thing or two from our cousins across ‘The Ditch’. Sustained engagement between Prime Ministers and Ministers from both governments has been a critical part of the step change that Australia achieved in its relationship with India.

Prime Minister Hipkins has already announced his intention to visit India after our elections.

In discussions with my counterparts, I am cementing in the idea that we need to meet annually.

We also need to see more New Zealand Ministers from other portfolios visiting India. This builds on the visits by Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Food Safety, as well as my own visit, all of which have taken place over the last 12 months.

These visits are backed up by the work of officials. We have an active and committed High Commission in India and staff from a range of agencies across South Asia who will be critical to providing the bridge to the Indian Government. 

A range of arrangements that underpin our relationship are also under discussion on defence cooperation, air services, and customs.

It is clear too that we need to work together as government and business communities in both countries.

It makes no sense to be pulling in different directions.

Following the INZBC’s report and its set of recommendations to Government, I directed officials to work on a response. Working as NZ Inc they have identified four priority areas in our relationship where we think we can work together, government and business alike, to achieve a step-change in our relationship.

Firstly, we agree with the INZBC that we need to build the right connections between businesses.

Diplomats call this “relationship architecture”.

We want to encourage and support an annual business-led forum. This could take place in New Zealand and India in alternate years. The forum could deepen business relationships, galvanise government action, and attract senior political leaders.

My aim will be to encourage my counterpart Minister Goyal to visit New Zealand at the same time as the Forum.

Over time, we would want to see the event support our broader relationship objectives, and become similar in format to the annual Leadership Forum that we enjoy with Australia.

Secondly, we need better air connectivity between our countries. 

This will be obvious to all of you who have travelled here. A non-stop flight between India and New Zealand would be transformational. 

Arguably, this would give the most significant boost to our businesses, trade and diaspora connections of any single action we can take.

Tourism and trade go hand in hand. There are encouraging signs from airlines. And I will meet with Air India tomorrow.

As a government, we can put our best foot forward to present a whole of government case that demonstrates what we can do across tourism, aviation, and immigration, working closely with our stakeholders in the private sector. 

Third, I am fond of reminding New Zealanders that we should not just be seeking to be the best country in the world, but the best country for the world.

We can do that by helping our friends grow their capability.

An example here is India and New Zealand working together in our horticultural and agricultural sectors.

This links back to my earlier comments about finding niche areas of cooperation that are of mutual benefit to both countries.

Discussions are already well under way on a kiwifruit support project for India. I would like to acknowledge Zespri which has worked with the New Zealand and Indian Governments to develop a package to support India’s kiwifruit industry. Once implemented, I hope this could provide a model for other sectors to follow.

A further example of how we can be the best country for the world is education to remain a key pillar in the relationship. 

As the international education sector continues to recover from COVID, India’s middle class is growing, and so is investment in building its own quality education sector.

New Zealand institutions must continue to partner with India, to support India’s domestic offering to grow in line with its National Education Policy 2020.

An excellent example of this is the New Zealand Centre at the India Institute of Technology in New Delhi.

This has been co-funded by all New Zealand Universities and I.I.T. Delhi, promoting connections and collaboration between research institutions in New Zealand and India.

While India remains a significant source of students for New Zealand institutions, New Zealand students also have opportunities to study in India, through the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia, building enduring people-to-people links and cultural understanding, which, in turn, benefit our overall trade and business relationships.

Supporting all these efforts are a number of “enablers” in the relationship.

Sports, of course, is a platform to build our relationship.

Cricket is an obvious point of connection, but there are opportunities across a range of sporting codes.

2026 will mark 100 years since the first Indian sports representatives, an army hockey team toured New Zealand, which will be something to celebrate.  And if we have our first non-stop flights that year then it could shape up to be a significant year in our relationship.

We can also build on the links between Māori and India’s indigenous communities.

The visit by my colleague, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta, opened up opportunities for cooperation. We also need to understand where the interests and opportunities lie for Māori businesses and collaborate to realise these opportunities.  

In finishing, I am excited to be back in India for the second time in less than 12 months. It is clear that there is momentum behind our relationship. 

We need to work together to take advantage of the opportunities this presents to all.

I am here to meet my Ministerial counterparts, Minister Goyal, Minister Tomar, Minister Scindia and Minister Rupala to keep moving the various components of our relationship forward. 

I am also meeting business leaders to discuss exciting opportunities. I have been impressed by the willingness of the business community in both countries to work together on a shared vision for our relationship.

Rest assured you have the commitment of the New Zealand Government to take the agenda forward. I am confident that by working together we can lift the India - New Zealand relationship and partnership to new heights.