India, New Zealand to work towards early conclusion of Free Trade Agreement

New Delhi, June 4 (ANI): India and New Zealand on Tuesday decided to work towards early conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The visiting New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully held talks with his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid here today, and the two leaders stressed on the importance of strong bilateral ties between the two countries.

McCully after the talks in a joint media interaction said that he and Khurshid had

warm and constructive talks this morning covering the various aspects of the bilateral relationship.

"The Minister has referred to agriculture as an area in which we can obviously take forward our cooperation. Education is an area in which we have seen progress but have ambition to do much more," said McCully.

"Of course the Free Trade Agreement which the Minister speaks of is an immediate goal for us because it has been our experience that the other elements of the partnership always succeed in pursuing a Free Trade Agreement and we believe that the potential of the relationship between New Zealand and India will be unlocked through an FTA. So, we have both agreed that we will urge our Trade Minister colleagues to work out to achieve this objective," he added.

Khurshid on his part said that he was honoured to have the New Zealand Foreign Minister as the honoured guest, and added that the two have had a very good conversation and dialogue on a host of issues of interest to both sides of bilateral, regional and multilateral nature.

"Our economic relations are strong. We have of course recognized that there is potential for doing a lot more. And I suggested that in the field of agriculture is an area in which we still have some negotiations to complete as we move on the free trade area agreement. But there are areas in which we can work closely together. And I mentioned to His Excellency that India imports a lot of good wool from New Zealand for the carpets that we make in my own State in Bhadoi and of course Kashmir. I hope that we can work more closely together in the matter of wool production," said Khurshid.

"As I said we are working on the FTA. We have agreed His Excellency is meeting my colleague Anand Sharma very soon, and I will certainly urge my colleague that we need to push forward the FTA, which was targeted for eight to ten months at the time of the last meeting between the Trade Ministers. But it has already been over a year and a quarter and I think it is time that we push forward quickly," he added.

Khurshid further said the two nations would continue to work closely on the fight against international terrorism.

The New Zealand Foreign Minister, who arrived in New Delhi early this morning, is also scheduled to meet Sports Minister Jitendra Singh and place an invitation for maximum participation in the 2015 cricket world cup, which will be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

"Before I conclude may I mention two sporting issues that bind us? I have already mentioned cricket and we look forward to the Cricket World Cup to be jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia in 2015, and we hope to return with the Trophy, Minister. I know that you have a share of the matches between you and Australia and some of the good matches will be played by India," said Khurshid during the joint media briefing after the talks. (ANI)

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