India, New Zealand aim for deeper trade ties in pharma, agriculture, food processing

At the 11th India-New Zealand Joint Trade Committee meeting on April 26-27, the two sides agreed to establish specialized working groups to drive collaboration in priority sectors like agriculture, food processing, forestry and pharmaceuticals.

India and New Zealand are exploring plans to significantly deepen and diversify their economic engagement across a wide range of sectors, including pharmaceuticals, agriculture, food processing, forestry and services trade. This is aimed at unlocking the huge potential that exists in bilateral commercial relations given the mutual complementarities between the two economies. I

These plans were discussed at constructive high-level meetings held in New Zealand last week between a delegation led by India’s Commerce Secretary Sunil Barthwal and New Zealand ministers, officials and business leaders. At the 11th India-New Zealand Joint Trade Committee meeting on April 26-27, the two sides agreed to establish specialized working groups to drive collaboration in priority sectors like agriculture, food processing, forestry and pharmaceuticals.

The meetings had focused discussions on several key areas aimed at promoting bilateral trade and cooperation, marking a pivotal moment in strengthening economic ties and fostering collaboration between the two nations, building upon the existing close ties through people-to-people and business contacts.

Enhancing two-way trade in services emerged as a key priority, with both countries expressing keen interest in increasing business-to-business partnerships as well as the mobility of professionals and skilled workers. Potential areas identified include hospitality, nursing, telemedicine, education, air connectivity, joint research and development, and nurturing start-up ecosystems.

In the pharmaceutical sector, plans include the adoption of a fast-track regulatory approval process, utilizing inspection reports of overseas regulators for quality checks on manufacturing facilities, and boosting India’s exports of medicines to New Zealand. Collaboration in medical devices was also discussed.

The meetings covered a wide array of trade issues, including market access barriers and non-tariff measures impacting Indian agricultural exports like grapes, okra and mangoes to New Zealand. Both sides recommitted to resolving pending issues through constructive dialogue under the existing joint trade committee mechanism.

While reaffirming their commitment to upholding WTO principles and a rules-based global trading order, India and New Zealand also explored opportunities for cooperation in emerging areas like digital trade, achieving climate goals, cross-border payment systems and coordinating positions at multilateral forums like G20 and IPEF.

To maintain momentum, the two countries agreed to hold regular official-level meetings across various tracks to sort out bilateral trade issues, work on collaborative activities in existing and new areas, and steadily enhance economic engagement in line with the untapped potential that exists.

The meetings signalled a strong intent from both sides to inject new dynamism in an otherwise underperforming trade and economic partnership that has remained below potential despite long-standing political ties and commonalities as members of the Commonwealth.