McKinnon Developing New Opportunities for Trade in Asia

  • Don McKinnon
Foreign Affairs and Trade

Trade, political, economic and development issues are on the agenda between the Lao Government and New Zealand as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Don McKinnon visits Laos, in South East Asia this week.

The visit is the final leg of Mr McKinnon's visit to Asia. He was in Tokyo for the South Pacific Forum Summit on Monday and Tuesday, travelled to Thailand yesterday and arrives in Laos, today.

The main objective of the Laos leg of the trip is to promote New Zealand as a development, political and business partner. Mr McKinnon is breaking new ground as he is the first senior minister from New Zealand to make an official bilateral visit to the country.

"Currently trade with Laos is small, but it is very early days and we recognise the whole Mekong Region has huge potential for growth," he said.

"Taking the time to build the relationship now will see both sides benefit in the future. As a trading island nation it is important that we are constantly on the look out for new and emerging opportunities for our exporters and investors. We have benefited enormously from the strong growth of ASEAN economies, of which Laos is one, over the last 30 years. East Asian countries now account for 40% of our $20 billion export market."

Mr McKinnon said the relationship until recently has been largely aid driven but the political and business dimensions are growing - especially since Laos has recently become a member of ASEAN.

"There is currently some New Zealand private sector involvement in Laos, and New Zealand's main economic interest in the medium to short term will focus on gaining more consultancy work."

The Ministers will discuss a range of bilateral issues including opportunities for growing trade, New Zealand investment in Laos and New Zealand's Development Assistance Programme (ODA) for Laos. Mr McKinnon will meet two NZ defence officials assisting with mine clearance as part of the programme.

The visit will also further develop confidence between the two Governments as dialogue partners on ASEAN and regional issues.