Wellington, July 12 - The New Zealand government Friday laid out it goals for boosting investment and trade with the 10-nation ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) bloc.
Prime Minister John Key launched the "NZ Inc ASEAN Strategy", saying the ASEAN countries presented opportunities to grow trade and political relationships "in our neighbourhood", reported Xinhua.
"Already ASEAN as a bloc is New Zealand's fourth largest trading partner and over the past 10 years New Zealand's total trade with ASEAN has grown at 9 percent per year on average," Key said in a statement.
"This NZ Inc ASEAN Strategy sets out ambitious goals for New Zealand over the next five years, including growing annual visitor expenditure from the region by two-thirds, from 289 million NZ dollars ($227.22 million) to 470 million NZ dollars, and boosting New Zealand's exports to the region by 40 percent by the end of 2017."
It also underlined the importance of building on New Zealand's strong political and security relationships across ASEAN, including an increased diplomatic presence in the region and more work together on disaster relief.
"New Zealand needs to be making the most of a young, increasingly urban, affluent and quality conscious region only half the distance from our traditional European customers," said Key.
"We are in a sound position to boost our relationship with the region. We have a free trade agreement in place, a strong shared history, and are geographically close."
The 620 million people of the ASEAN region accounted for almost 10 percent of the world's population, he said.
The three broad goals of the strategy included:
-- becoming "better connected and more influential" through strong government leadership in activities such as trade delegations, and an increased diplomatic presence in ASEAN countries;
-- becoming "better integrated" through improved air links, scholarships, exchanges and secondments, and aid partnerships;
-- and boosting trade and investment by pressing for trade liberalization and the removal of market barriers.
Asia New Zealand Foundation director of research Andrew Butcher welcomed the strategy, saying ASEAN was vital to New Zealand's economic stability.
"ASEAN and its associated organizations, including the East Asia Summit, give New Zealand entry into important discussions about the region's growth and security," Butcher said in a statement.
Surveys by the foundation showed New Zealanders' awareness of ASEAN countries was low, but New Zealand had been highly successful in engaging with Southeast Asia, he said. (IANS)