21 Feb 2009

Free trade deal with India will be a winner, says Minister

6:32 pm on 21 February 2009

Trade Minister Tim Groser says a proposed free trade agreement with India could be worth as much to New Zealand as last year's deal with China.

Mr Groser and his Indian counterpart in New Delhi agreed on Friday to start negotiations as soon as July.

The free trade deal with China promised to boost New Zealand's exports by several hundred million dollars annually.

Radio New Zealand's economics correspondent says officials expect a tougher time negotiating an agreement with India but point out their tariff barriers to New Zealand products are very high.

If these are dismantled it could lead to large gains for exporters here.

Mr Groser says India has a middle class of several hundred million people which is growing faster than food production in the country.

He says exporters of New Zealand agricultural systems could help lift that production and deliver gains to the New Zealand economy.

Federated Farmers says the sheep meat industry could be the big winner of the agreement.

Its president, Don Nicholson, says news that the two countries are to begin negotiations will be a big boost for sheep farmers as India is an emerging economic powerhouse.