WELLINGTON — Bilateral trade with New Zealand is set to grow after Burma’s 2015 election, the antipodean nation’s minister for economic development has predicted.
Steven Joyce told The Irrawaddy in the New Zealand capital of Wellington on Wednesday that his country’s government was looking to improve trade relations with the fast-growing Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region, which would also see the prospects for business between Burma and New Zealand improve.
He said New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, was keen to connect the two countries’ economies as Burma emerges from dictatorship under the quasi-civilian government that took power in 2011.
“The foreign minister is a big fan of developing the trade relationship with Burma, he is putting significant effort in the space as part of a wider Asean agreement,” Joyce said.
Kiwi business people are active in other Southeast Asian countries and are watching Burma closely, he said. “I think you will see trade growth quite quickly soon,” Joyce added.
Current bilateral trade between the two countries is small, with Burma only New Zealand’s 97th largest trading partner.
Burma imported about US$17.5 million worth of goods from New Zealand last year—mostly dairy products—up from $15.2 million the previous year. New Zealand’s imports from Burma were valued at about US$1 million last year, with wood products featuring prominently.
New Zealand is interested in Burma as a growing market for its dairy products, which make up more than a fifth of the country’s total exports, as well as for its potential for agribusiness, consultancy services and telecommunications, the minister said.
“There will be range of reasons to increase trade with Burma as Burma is rapidly developing. We think it will continue to develop quickly, and it includes consumers that are interested in New Zealand products, but also technology partnerships as well, there are a lot of opportunities in Burma,” Joyce said.
Kyaw Hsu Mon is attending the Asia Foundation New Zealand’s program for reporting on parliament and the 2014 election in New Zealand.