New Zealand trade czars and exporters have generally been chuffed lately at getting a package of free trade deals over the line.
The European Union free trade agreement opens some doors that had appeared permanently shut, while the United Kingdom FTA shores up an eroded historical relationship with a country that was once our No 1 trade partner.
But long-time trade negotiators have cautioned that future FTAs like these are likely to be increasingly fewer and further apart, as the world aligns more with geopolitical values than it does with rules-based trade opportunities.
It could be almost instinctive, then, for NZ’s primary sector to look at India through the same lens of opportunity – as a ripe trade fruit to pick in a diminishing harvest.
The world’s most populous nation, India is working towards greater economic prosperity and wealth with a burgeoning middle class and world-beating economic growth of 6-7% per annum.
A NZ trade delegation is travelling to the capital, New Delhi, this month, but the three words “free trade” and “deal” are being firmly muffled.
Delegates are urged to take a far more nuanced, considered approach to the conversations they have with Indian businesspeople and politicians.
India walked away from an FTA with NZ and Australia over five years ago, with concerns over its most valued agricultural sectors, which employ almost half its population.
NZ dived into its EU and UK deals, but Australia pushed on with India in a measured, subtle and diplomatic way.
It built on elements of trust, communication and mutual exchange that culminated in an “early harvest” FTA with India this year on certain products, excluding dairy and apples.
The Aussies built on shared concerns over China, immigration settings and mutual commercial opportunities far beyond the nations’ mutual love of cricket, although this undoubtedly played a role in getting many conversations started.
NZ shares the passion for cricket but lacks the coal and minerals India as a growing nation needs from Australia.
This requires delegates to get creative in thinking how their particular sector could bring something mutually rewarding to these early conversations to build the relationship. This could include a focus on education, something Indian families prize highly.
The opportunities for the primary sector, for example, may be in mutual exchanges of horticultural and agricultural undergraduates, and the offering of skilled extension staff from here to visit and help improve crop productivity.
Even getting direct air links and simpler immigration settings would be a good first start and a strong display of faith between countries.
The visit may also require a resetting of subconscious bias about what India is and what its people aspire to.
As with China, there is no generic nation. It comprises 28 populous and diverse states that share a strong desire to modernise and to be a world power.
Given it is only 76 years into democracy, its people are also averse to approaches that reek of colonial-type capitalism, as they seek partnerships in trust to build on their aspirations, not simply transactions in goods.