Visiting New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who arrived here on Monday on a three-day visit, said that India and New Zealand were likely to sign the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) by early next year.

Mr. Key, who will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday, will focus on enhancing energy cooperation and trade ties with India. The two sides will also be signing few pacts during Mr. Key's visit.

Stating that both India and New Zealand have already completed about five rounds of negotiations, Mr. Key, speaking on the sidelines of a function here, said “We expect it to be signed by March 2012”. However, the conclusion would depend on the quality of agreement and negotiations, he said. The two countries hope to increase their bilateral trade to $3 billion from $1.2 billion.

The negotiations for a New Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement or popularly known as FTA started last year. Sources said that energy cooperation, including civil nuclear, was one of the important aspects that would be discussed during the talks between the leaders of the two countries.

The Commerce and Industry Minister, Anand Sharma, who visited Auckland in May, had said that the two countries could cooperate in several segments, including agriculture, pharmaceuticals, dairy products, research and development, tourism and films.

Mr. Key took time off to visit the Taj Mahal. The visiting Prime Minister will also travel to Mumbai, where he will meet the Maharashtra Governor and visit a Bollywood studio.

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