RCEP talks: New Zealand ready to ease work-visa rules for India

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The Hindu Business Line - 07 August 2019

RCEP talks: New Zealand ready to ease work-visa rules for India
By Amiti Sen

But wants market access for dairy, wine and apples; NZ’s special envoy bats for successful conclusion of mega trade pact
New Zealand wants to have greater market access for its dairy products, apples, kiwis and wine into India as part of the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact being negotiated by 16 countries, said the country’s special envoy for Commonwealth Trade Integration Jeremy Clarke-Watson.

India’s demand for easier movement of workers and professionals is being considered seriously by the country and could be met provided market barriers to New Zealand’s goods are eased, Watson said in an interview with BusinessLine.

“We are aware of India’s requests in the area (easier visas for workers and professionals). It is being given very serious consideration by our negotiators and by our government in Wellington. We are looking to respond to India’s request in a positive manner. But it comes down also to India providing New Zealand with commercially meaningful market access for our products as well,” said Clarke-Watson.

While the Agriculture Ministry is not in favour of liberalisation of the dairy sector for most RCEP members, it is considering New Zealand’s demand seriously as the country exports mostly premium products that are not produced in India.

“For skimmed milk powder and whole milk powder, which is produced in abundance in India, the Ministry is considering a tariff rate quota basis access to keep a check on the quantity of imports,” an Indian government official said.

Sensitive items

For items like apples and wine, though, India may have trouble offering greater market access as these items are considered sensitive for the economy and have been extended protection in all the FTAs signed so far.

Clarke-Watson is in India to meet government officials and explore ways for increased cooperation between the two countries, as both are members of the Commonwealth. Digital trade, bilateral business-to-business interaction, finance, infrastructure and SMEs are the areas of focus.

While India is not happy with what its RCEP member countries, which includes the 10-member ASEAN, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia have offered so far, especially in services, Clarke-Watson says that the best value is often derived in the last phase.

“In a negotiation you clear the easy issues first and then you reach the hard ones. This is where the trade-offs come. The final steps are always the one that take extra time. But they are also the one that provide most value for both sides. I think it is in the interest of both India and New Zealand to get to the conclusion of RCEP. I think this can be done,” he said.