December 8, 2023

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins to take up offer to visit India and talk free trade

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Prime Minister Chris Hipkins will be taking up an offer from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the country and talk about a potential free trade agreement.

Hipkins has returned from Papua New Guinea where he met with leaders from the Indo-Pacific region, the United States Secretary of State and the Indian Prime Minister at the United States-Pacific Summit.

Hipkins told Morning Report he will not be able to get to India before the election but Trade Minister Damien O’Connor would visit pre-election.

“I think there are opportunities for us to continue to broaden and deepening our trading relationship,” Hipkins said.

But, he said, “India obviously has had bottom lines previously around trade”.

“You don’t achieve a trade agreement simply by telling another country you’re going to have a trade agreement with them.”

Other countries that had secured a trade deal with India had done so off the back of a long relationship and it usually excluded the primary sector, he said.

“I think there are opportunities for us to continue to broaden and deepening our trading relationship” – Prime Minister Chris Hipkins (7 min 39 sec)

The United States and Papua New Guinea signed a Defence Cooperation Agreement at the summit, allowing the US almost unfettered access to PNG airspace and territorial waters.

Hipkins said there was a longstanding relationship between the two nations.

“When it comes to Pacific politics, ultimately we have to realise these are autonomous countries and they make their own decisions around the international relationships that they want to have.”

Last year Solomon Islands signed a security deal with China, which caused disquiet among Australian, New Zealand and US governments.

Hipkins said one of the differences between the two situations was that the deal between Solomon Islands and China was not transparent.

Papua New Guinea was focused on making sure it could respond in disasters where it needs military presence as support and protecting fisheries from illegal fishing – objectives New Zealand supports, he said.

“We have a longstanding existing relationship with the United States when it comes to the military and they’re more predictable, we understand what their motivations are, they are quite transparent with us and so we do know what we’re dealing with there.”

Ask if New Zealand needs to pick a side, Hipkins said people oversimplify the situation far too regularly.

“New Zealand will continue to trade with China and will continue to have a relationship with China. China is actually a really important relationship for New Zealand and that’s not going to change.”


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