Key gets royal welcome in India

JOHN HARTEVELT IN NEW DELHI
Last updated 16:19 28/06/2011

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Prime Minister John Key has been welcomed to the Presidential Palace with full pomp and pageantry.

Key and wife Bronagh were met at Rashtrapati Bhavan by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur.

A late change of the programme saw the welcome moved inside the palace because of fears the monsoon rains would dampen proceedings. The change of plans sent local security officials in to a frenzy.

Key now kicks off a day of meetings with top Indian politicians, culminating in the formal bi-lateral talks with Singh.

In brief remarks to Indian media at the welcome, Key said he hoped to broaden the already very strong relationship between the two countries.

Earlier, Key confirmed to New Zealand reporters that he would raise with Singh India's poor record on nuclear weapons proliferation.

New Zealand's position on nuclear weapons was "extremely well understood," he said.

But reducing nuclear weapons was a "long, slow process."

"You make the point but you don't labour the point," Key said.

A strong trade relationship would allow New Zealand to better make inroads on issues of concern.

INDIAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT GAINS MOMENTUM

There will be some signs of progress towards a Free Trade Agreement with India when Key and Singh meet in New Delhi tonight.

Key was set to meet Singh at Hyderabad House late tonight, New Zealand time.

Progressing the free trade agreement will be top of the agenda, but Key has promised to also raise India's poor record on the accumulation of nuclear weapons.

Key yesterday suggested there could be a couple of announcements on free trade after tonight's meeting.

"That's going to dominate our discussion and it obviously makes sense that we're going to have a lot to say about that," Key said.

It's understood agreements will be signed on film co-production and science and technology co-operation.

There have been four rounds of talks by officials on an FTA deal so far and Key yesterday indicated he expected another four rounds before any agreement.

The two Governments have agreed on an eight-to-ten-month timeframe to conclude the deal, which has been viewed as ambitious.

Key yesterday told a business audience that the Government would "not want to be held hostage by that timeline."

It is hoped that a deal could treble trade between the two countries out to $3b by 2014.

Fonterra director Greg Gent said there was "huge potential" for growth, with China and India responsible for about half of the annual global increase in demand for dairy.

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Fonterra faced a 60 per cent tariff in to the Indian market but progress on an FTA deal to progressively cut that seemed to be progressing well, Gent said.

"The relationship between the two countries is strong and I think you need that fundamental strength to do a good FTA."

Gent is part of a 28-strong delegation of business leaders travelling with Key.

Two memoranda of understanding were yesterday signed by New Zealand and Indian companies in the health and banking sectors for closer ties in information technology.

Key and Trade Minister Tim Groser witnessed the signing ceremonies.

Key also meets, among others, with the Indian President Pratibha Patil and chairperson of the Congress Party Sonia Gandhi today.

- Stuff

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