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New Zealand PM spearheads trade promotion as Myanmar opens up

English.news.cn   2012-11-23 10:05:38            

WELLINGTON, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on Friday wrapped up the first ever visit to Myanmar by a New Zealand leader after a meeting with opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and announcing a major aid package.

Key's visit is the high point of a concerted New Zealand campaign to expand its markets into Southeast Asia as the Myanmar emerges from military rule with the promised political reform.

Following on from Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully's visit to Myanmar and meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi in March, Key presented the National League for Democracy leader with basket of golden kiwifruit, one of New Zealand's main fruit exports, and a greenstone pendant.

"For many years Aung San Suu Kyi led efforts to bring democratic reform to Myanmar, and she has made great personal sacrifices on behalf of the country's people," Key said in a statement from his office Friday.

"I was pleased to reaffirm to Aung San Suu Kyi New Zealand's support as Myanmar continues to promote the democratic and economic reforms she has dedicated so much of her life to achieving."

Earlier, Key announced an aid package worth 7 million NZ dollars (5.71 million U.S. dollars) to Myanmar after a meeting with President Thein Sein, in the capital Naypyitaw.

Over the next five years, New Zealand would invest 6 million NZ dollars in building Myanmar's dairy farming capabilities, to complement the funding already available for scholarships and the English Language Training for Officials program.

New Zealand would also provide 1 million NZ dollars in humanitarian assistance for Rakhine province, where inter-ethnic violence had led to large numbers of people being forced from their homes.

During the meeting with President Thein Sein, Key again reaffirmed New Zealand's support for Myanmar's reintegration into the wider international community.

"Myanmar is going through significant political and economic change to deliver a better future for its people," said Key in a statement.

"President Thein Sein outlined the major reforms that have taken place in Myanmar over the past year, and the many challenges his country still faces. He also briefed me on actions taken by the Myanmar government to address the extremely serious situation in the Rakhine province."

New Zealand would step up its political and diplomatic engagement with Myanmar by establishing a diplomatic presence there next year.

The decision had also been made to use the name Myanmar, as opposed to Burma, in recognition of the positive progress made to date in the reform process, said Key.

Earlier in the week at the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, Key joined the launch of negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade pact with the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, which includes Myanmar, New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and India.

New Zealand businesses have been pushing to get into Myanmar, which is wedged between India, China and Thailand.

Last month, when Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin visited New Zealand, McCully stated New Zealand's keenness "to support further commercial opportunities as the Myarmar economy opens up."

On Wednesday, New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra announced it was appointing a country manager for Myanmar, the first Myanmar-based staff it had ever employed, to lead the expansion of Fonterra's business in its fast-growing dairy market.

"Myanmar has a population of around 56 million people and dairy consumption per capita is expected to increase as people in Myanmar increasingly look for high quality nutrition that supports the health of their families," Fonterra ASEAN managing director Mark Wilson said in a statement.

"In addition, Myanmar's tourism sector is growing fast with increased investment and developing infrastructure across the country. This is driving demand for high quality foodservice products from hotels and restaurants."

Fonterra's established Myanmar consumer business, through distributor relationships, had more than doubled over the last year, he said.

Financial consultancy Grant Thornton, in a report Wednesday, listed Myanmar as one of 10 "high growth" countries recommended for New Zealand investors, stating that Fonterra and New Zealand- based engineering consultancy Beca were "leading the way" in establishing a New Zealand presence there.

Editor: znz
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