Joanna Kempkers is the New Zealand High Commissioner to India. In this interview with 'India Global Business', the career diplomat lays out the investment climate on offer for Indian companies, prospects of a free trade agreement and areas where the Commonwealth bond between the two countries can be further strengthened.
What is the nature of Indian investments in New Zealand and what are the areas these can be further enhanced in
has been concentrated in hotels, property, forestry, biotech and services areas. Many big Indian IT multinationals, including CMC, Tata Consultancy Services, Tech Mahindra, Wipro and Infosys, have a presence in New Zealand. Other examples include an Indian Immunologicals Limited plant in Dargaville, a provincial town in the north of New Zealand, and Toonz Animation.
There are opportunities for Indian investors to form partnerships in the wider aviation industry in New Zealand, including airport technology, infrastructure, tourism and training. New Zealand provides safe, hygienic conditions for Indian investors to partner with reputable New Zealand companies to manufacture health and wellness products. And there is also increased interest out of India in New Zealand services companies, in areas such as insurance.
What are some of the incentives on offer for Indian companies looking to expand in the region
New Zealand is known as a safe, trustworthy and easy place to invest and do business. This is underpinned by stable political and regulatory systems, an innovative and well-educated population and our close proximity to 60 per cent of the world's population that borders the Pacific Ocean.
As such, we have been ranked number one for the
s annual ease of 'Doing Business' report for the last two years. There are potential co-funding opportunities available through New Zealand government agencies for projects that have a strategic advantage for New Zealand. These include early stage due diligence funding for catalytic projects through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise's investment division, and via the Provincial Growth Fund through which the New Zealand government has allocated NZ$3 billion over a three-year term to invest in regional economic development.
How are the prospects of a free trade agreement progressing within the bilateral context and as part of the wider Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
New Zealand and India are negotiating a closer economic relationship through two-tracks: bilaterally and through RCEP. Both tracks are important to New Zealand. At present, the immediate prospect for securing a free trade relationship is through the RCEP track.
An announcement by the leaders of the RCEP economies referred to the substantial progress that was made in RCEP in 2018. They said they were determined to conclude a modern, comprehensive and high-quality RCEP agreement in 2019.
Can the RCEP prove an effective fightback to protectionism
RCEP is part of the government's strategy to continually modernise the New Zealand economy and support businesses and exporters in the face of growing global protectionism. There are over 3.5 billion people in the 16 countries in RCEP, and they account for about 28 per cent of global trade and over 56 per cent of New Zealand's goods and services exports.
How do you see India-NZ ties progressing in the coming years
New Zealand and India have a long-standing and enduring relationship founded on our shared Commonwealth heritage, respect for democratic norms and multilateralism, and our passion for cricket. These ties are based on strong people-to-people links which, through the education and tourism sectors, are growing by the year. Two-way tourism grew by 20 per cent in the past 12 months. In 2017, 17,615 Indian students went to New Zealand to attain a world-class education in universities that are ranked among the top 3 per cent globally.
Even though we have a strong foundation, there is always scope to broaden and deepen the relationship. We want to grow economic and trade linkages, including through the successful conclusion of a free trade agreement-either bilaterally or through the multilateral RCEP negotiations. Our trade and economic relationship is tracking well, with two-way trade worth NZ$2.5 billion and 140 New Zealand companies doing business in India. But it has the potential to be a lot greater. A free trade agreement would provide the framework necessary for India to benefit from New Zealand's world-leading expertise in agriculture, education, tourism, innovation and technology-all sectors India is focused on developing for its own growth story. Our experience is that engagement and investment by New Zealand companies skyrocket following the conclusion of a high-quality, comprehensive free trade agreement that provides them with secure market access, greater certainty on costs and stability of regulation.
As responsible actors in the Asia-Pacific region, India and New Zealand have a strong interest in keeping this region stable and prosperous. This shared interest acts as a catalyst to promote bilateral engagement and undertake activities together to achieve our common goals. One of the ways through which we do this is regular high-level visits that help us reinforce our ties and set the stage for collaboration at an international level. Former President Pranab Mukherjee visited New Zealand in 2016 and, that same year, then New Zealand Prime Minister Sir John Key visited India. In 2017, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, Lt Gen. V.K. Singh, visited New Zealand and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the East Asia Summit.
Does the Indian diaspora in New Zealand play a proactive role in strengthening this relationship
Yes, absolutely. The Indian-origin community accounts for nearly 4 per cent of our population. In Auckland, that figure stands at 8 per cent. It's no surprise that Hindi is our fourth-most spoken language, after English, M ori and Samoan.
Indian-New Zealanders continue to contribute productively to our society and economy. Three MPs of the 120 in the New Zealand Parliament are of Indian origin and so is one of our former Governors-General, Sir Anand Satyanand.
is very active in the cultural sector too, with major Indian festivals such as Diwali on the New Zealand calendar.