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The Prime Minister’s recent trip to India to cement closer trade ties highlighted another area where Southland has been a leader.

Two-way trade between our countries is already worth more than $1 billion a year and we want to boost that further.  Finalising a Free Trade Agreement with India was always going to be a complex process, but New Zealand is making good progress towards the conclusion of the deal, scheduled for early next year.

However, it was the announcement of a new sports scholarship and academic exchange programme between India and New Zealand that got my attention.

Southern Institute of Technology has been leading the way in India for some time.  The influx of Indian students has been a cultural, educational and economic boost to Invercargill.  Nice to have that reflected by the Prime Minister!

The news that the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) has signed a Scholarly Exchange Agreement with 29 Chinese universities is a very big deal.

SIT has delivered another potential boost to the local economy with this initiative.  While they are aiming for up to 20 students per year, the exposure to these universities really puts Invercargill and Southland to the fore.

Other similar initiatives by SIT over the last few years have seen Invercargill become more ethnically diverse, and brought our city to the attention of plenty across the sub-continent and Asia.

Their innovative approach to developing international student numbers, and making Invercargill a more interesting place, is to be applauded.

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