Speech to Indian businesses and community leaders

Tena koutou katoa, Hello, and Namaskar.

It really is a great pleasure to be here today in Delhi. I would like to acknowledge all of you who have joined us; businesses leaders, distinguished academics, sector and peak body representatives. You are here because, like me, you have an interest in the New Zealand-India relationship.  

I’m also delighted to have this opportunity to reconnect with my colleague Amitabh Kant, whom I hosted in New Zealand during my last tenure as Trade Minister. I look forward to working with you again Amitabh.

The New Zealand Government was sworn into office just four short weeks ago and it’s no coincidence that I have chosen to visit Delhi as my first international engagement.  

You should read it as intended; a signal of the strategic priority that the New Zealand Government attaches to the relationship with India.

New Zealand and India established diplomatic ties over 70 years ago, a time when the global economy was recovering from the ravages of two world wars – wars in which both our nations sacrificed so much. 

Legend has it that in WWI New Zealand rations were so terrible in Gallipoli, that our men frequently relied on the kindness of their Indian comrades sharing their chapatis – the origins of New Zealand-India trade perhaps?

New Zealanders and Indians have been demonstrating respect and camaraderie to each other ever since. When India played Australia in this year’s Cricket World Cup, it was clear that all New Zealanders were supporting India to win! 

Today New Zealand’s India-origin diaspora is 5 percent of our population and growing; constantly refreshing and renewing the people to people links between our two countries. In our largest city, Auckland, this figure stands at 8 percent. It is no surprise that Hindi is our fifth-most common spoken language.

Indian New Zealanders have thrived in their adopted home and made an enormous contribution to modern New Zealand culture and economy. In 2019, it was calculated that New Zealand-Indians contributed NZD 10 billion to the New Zealand economy that year. 

As I mentioned at the outset, I was sworn in less than a month ago as Trade Minister for a Government with an ambitious international agenda. 

I am here today – on my first international visit – to listen and discuss the path forward. It is essential that we are aligned in our strategy to develop a strong relationship that results in future growth and prosperity for both our countries.

New Zealand’s new Government meets an increasingly challenging external environment: an international system under threat; global food security under pressure; conflicts and tensions creating disunity and an erosion of the rules we rely on; and increasingly dramatic climate events.  

These global challenges are worrying and in our region they are acute. In this environment, responsible nations that understand each other must draw closer together to safeguard our security and prosperity. 

Strengthening global connections through trade and economic cooperation is my focus. I believe nations are at their best when they are leveraging their economic and commercial strengths to shared benefit. 

I believe in the stabilising effect of trade and economic integration.  

I believe New Zealand and India can do so much more together and that is what I am in Delhi to discuss.

I’ll be listening carefully to you and to Minister Goyal when we meet later today, but before that I want to share my vision of what New Zealand and India’s relationship could be.  

First, a multifaceted and diverse bilateral relationship is essential for thriving two-way trade and the reverse is also true.  

On trade, I am unapologetically ambitious for New Zealand as I am sure Minister Goyal is for India. Improving our trade and economic relationship would deliver real benefits for our businesses, communities and economies. 

New Zealand is deeply enmeshed in the Indo Pacific trade architecture through a range of bilateral agreements and through our membership of the CPTPP, RCEP, AANZFTA and more recently IPEF. 

India is already part of three pillars of IPEF: the supply chain pillar, the climate-focused “clean economy” pillar, and the “fair economy” pillar focused on rule of law issues such as corruption.

We appreciate the constructive role India has played in negotiation of these pillars, and are looking forward to New Zealand and India becoming formal partners in these three agreements as they come into force in the months ahead.

This network of agreements has supported remarkable economic growth in our region, and has drawn trading partners closer together politically, affirming and strengthening our relationships.

Our relationship with India also has partnership at its core. The political, defence and security, people-to-people, cultural and economic elements of our relationship are inter‑linked. New Zealand wants a modern, broad-based, comprehensive relationship with India. We want economic cooperation based on mutual benefit and shared interests. This means supporting India’s economic ambitions in a way that benefits both countries.

It means knowing each other better and investing across the relationship in areas of importance to us both. I am keen to hear in my conversations here in Delhi about the areas where India sees potential for us to strengthen our partnership. 

From New Zealand you should expect to see an increased tempo of engagement across all areas of our relationship and at all levels of Government.  

I will be listening closely and taking back what I’ve heard from this visit to my cabinet colleagues and to New Zealand businesses, which share the Government’s priority for a comprehensive, broad-based relationship with India. 

Second, we need to recognise, celebrate and empower our connections. 

For many decades now, India has been a key destination for New Zealand travellers, adventurers and businesses, while New Zealand has benefited from a number of Indian professionals, student exchanges, and a rapid increases in tourists looking for a sense of adventure.

As this won’t be my last time visiting India as Trade Minister, next time I hope to have the opportunity to visit more of India’s wonderful monuments, cultural heritage, and nature.

India has now become New Zealand’s second largest source of international students. India is also New Zealand’s second largest destination for our students under the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia, established by former Prime Minister John Key. This exchange of ideas and insights generates tremendous opportunities for growth and the personal connections forged between our two peoples are invaluable. 

Earlier in my speech, I referred to the strong people-to-people connections we share. Many of the movers and shakers of New Zealand culture, society, and economy are of Indian origin, and we are so enriched by the close partnerships forged by these people. 

Sir Anand Satyanand was New Zealand’s first Governor-General of Indian and Pacific ancestry. Sukhi Turner was the first woman to be elected a mayor in Dunedin and first ever person of Indian descent to be elected a mayor in New Zealand. 

Turning to the creative sector, Shirley Setia is a New Zealand singer and actress born in India who became a YouTube sensation with over 3 million subscribers. Simran Kaur is a best-selling author, radio presenter, and founder of Girls That Invest, a podcast that has grown into an online phenomenon, and was named in the prestigious ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’.  

And of course Kiwi-Indians are at the forefront of New Zealand cricket. Black caps batsman Rachin Ravindra was named as one of the rising stars by the International Cricket Council breaking several world records in the sport’s history.

New Zealand and India have warm and lively sporting rivalries, including cricket - a sport in which our two countries are consistently among the best teams in the world. Cricketers such as Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori are well-known in both countries.

Let me also use this occasion to congratulate India on its hosting of the Cricket World Cup. New Zealanders love playing cricket against India. Although we would have liked to see the Blackcaps do better, they were great matches and demonstrated a special occasion to celebrate our sporting links.

I would like to make special mention of the extraordinary businesses investing in New Zealand’s market. Indian investment is making a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy, particularly in biotech and services:

Pristine Biologicals – a subsidiary of one of India’s major vaccine producers - expanded their operations last year by inaugurating a facility at its plant in small town Dargaville; contributing essential inputs for global vaccine production, and high-value jobs in regional New Zealand.

In 2021 two Indian brothers who moved to New Zealand a little over ten years ago won the prestigious New Zealand Share Farmer of the Year title. An extraordinary achievement for first generation New Zealanders. These brothers are now exploring ways to share the knowledge they have learned in New Zealand back in their home state of Uttarakhand by running large scale farms. 

These are just a handful of the many examples of how we are playing to each other’s’ strengths for shared benefit. I want to empower our people and our businesses to do even more together. 

One of the ways we can do this is for governments to continue our work to dismantle barriers to productivity and growth. 

We will also continue to advocate for the importance of predictable rules to provide our businesses with the certainty they need to invest and create jobs.  

Third, New Zealand is open for business.  

We may not be big, but our products and services are world class. 

We have expertise, experience, technology and a practical edge that has real impact when paired with India’s dynamic and educated population and its expanding economy. 

I believe that in joining forces our respective creativity and innovation can really deliver value.  

New Zealand innovation, investment, inputs, technology and expertise are contributing to some remarkable projects in a wide range of sectors including ICT, aviation, manufacturing and services. 

Together we can expand our web of connections and expertise, boosting innovation and enterprise. Let us identify our complementary strengths and connections and find ways to build on those. Let us deepen and expand our platform of understanding and partnership. Let us draw closer.

Later today, I will meet Minister Goyal with these same messages. New Zealand is open for business and we want to expand our relationship with India.  

I will reinforce with Minister Goyal the commitment and priority New Zealand ascribes to its relationship with India, and I will outline my intention to identify further trade and economic opportunities that benefit us both. 

And finally, I will invite Minister Goyal to work with me to create a supportive and stable trade environment that will help our businesses to grow, to invest, and to flourish together. 

It is my intention to return to India next year with a trade delegation and I hope to welcome Minister Goyal and Indian businesses to New Zealand. 

There is no better way of knowing each other than to spend time in each others’ homes – to share chapatis.  

Let’s make it a transformational year for the India New Zealand relationship, and let’s be creative and ambitious about what can be achieved with the knowledge that we are in this for the long run.

Thank you, Ngā mihi nui, Dhanyavaad.