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India, New Zealand eye early trade pact, launch education initiative

Tuesday June 28, 2011 10:02:31 PM, IANS

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key at the joint press conference, in New Delhi on June 28, 2011.

New Delhi: Pushing for an early free trade area (FTA) agreement, India and New Zealand, home to some of the most exotic landscapes, Tuesday signed a pact for the joint production of films and launched an ambitious education initiative that will spur collaboration in high-end research.

New Zealand declared support for India's membership in a reformed Security Council as the two countries decided to jointly combat piracy and expand defence cooperation. New Zealand announced its decision to post a defence adviser in India soon.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held delegation-level talks with his New Zealand counterpart John Key on a wide range of issues, including the intensification of ties in the economic, energy, environment and agriculture-related technologies sectors.

New Zealand, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, also assured India that the new guidelines tightening the export of enrichment and reprocessing technologies will not affect the clean waiver given by the NSG to New Delhi in September 2008.

"Both sides share the vision of a nuclear weapon free world. New Zealand welcomes increased engagement between India and the multilateral export control regimes," a joint statement said at the end of the talks.

The two leaders decide to accelerate negotiations for an FTA that has the potential to more than double the current $1.3 billion bilateral trade to $3 billion by 2015.

"The Prime Minister and I reviewed the status of our negotiations on the bilateral Free Trade Agreement. These are proceeding well and in the right direction," Manmohan Singh said at a joint press appearance with his Kiwi counterpart.

"Our partnership is growing and that is the reason we are very keen for the progress in the FTA We hope it will be concluded by 2012," Key said while interacting with top Indian industrialists earlier in the day.

Manmohan Singh underlined that New Zealand had proven strengths in the dairy, agriculture, food processing and renewable energy sectors and pitched for greater cooperation in these areas.

A joint education initiative was among the highlights of the talks between the two leaders.

This jointly-funded initiative, worth NZ $1 million annually (around Rs 3.6 crores), will promote partnerships in two key streams - higher education and research and skills and vocational education.

The initiative will focus on areas such as academic and student exchanges, joint research activities, and industry collaborations, said the joint statement. Nearly 12,000 Indian students study in New Zealand, contributing around $1 billion to the economy of the host country.

Two pacts on audio-visual co-productions and a protocol for cooperation on science and innovation were signed after the talks.

This agreement on co-audio-visual production will allow both sides to encourage industry level cooperation, share creative talent, and support the vibrant film industry in both countries. More than 100 Indian films have been shot in picturesque locales in New Zealand.

In a gesture that underlines the importance of Bollywood to bilateral ties, Key will be visiting Film City in Mumbai Wednesday.

Pointing to New Zealand's influence in the Asia Pacific region, Manmohan Singh called for cooperation in combating piracy and joint efforts to ensure the safety of sea lanes of communications.

India also urged New Zealand to transfer its state-of-the-art technology and increase investment in the country's agro-food processing industry, which offers investment opportunity of over $200 billion.





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