NZ PM pushes free trade on India visit

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key is in India to push for a free trade agreement that would reduce high tariffs on a range of exports to the Asian giant.

Key, whose country is best known to many Indians as the scenic backdrop for song-and-dance numbers in many Bollywood movies, kicked off his three-day trip on Monday with a visit to the Taj Mahal.

On Tuesday he will hold talks with Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The main focus will be ongoing negotiations to put in place a free trade agreement by 2012.

“These things are always delicate and, as we know from the negotiations with Korea, you can hit speed bumps along the way, but I’m confident they want to do a deal,” Key told reporters.

Two-way trade currently stands at just $US1.0 billion ($A957 million), a figure that Key, who is accompanied by two dozen business leaders, wants to double by 2014.

India has high tariffs on many imports, including New Zealand beef and dairy.

Monsoon rains weren’t enough to dampen spirits at the Taj Mahal, as Key and his wife Bronagh puckered up in front of the palace for photographers.

The contingent was given a guided tour, with the famous mausoleum cleared out for the visit.

Turning the occasion a little more romantic, the Keys kissed for the cameras while seated on the bench where Princess Diana famously posed for a photo.

“It was a monument built for a man who loved his wife dearly, and as much as I love my wife I don’t think I’ll be building a replica of this in Auckland somehow,” Key said.

“I don’t know how we’d fund it. I certainly couldn’t and I can’t see Bill English giving me this, the cycleway was a stretch for him. I don’t know whether a Taj Mahal for Bronagh will be in his budget any time soon.”


Source: The Sydney Morning Herald