Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Visits enhance Asean ties

Philippines President Benigno Aquino III is visiting New Zealand with a large delegation. Photo / AP
Philippines President Benigno Aquino III is visiting New Zealand with a large delegation. Photo / AP

New Zealand's bid to step up its engagement with Asean countries is bearing fruit with a host of visits at ministerial and leadership level on the Government's calling card.

Philippines President Benigno S. Aquino is visiting New Zealand with a large delegation, including his country's foreign minister, and will be in Wellington today for talks with the Government. And over the weekend Foreign Minister Murray McCully has been hosting the first visit by a foreign minister from Burma, Wunna Maung Lwin.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited two weeks ago.

Mr McCully visited Indonesia and Malaysia this month and the Philippines in August. Trade Minister Tim Groser visited Indonesia this month and Cambodia in August.

Strengthening ties with Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) is one of the foreign policy priorities of the Government.

Mr McCully said part of his talks with Mr Lwin were focused on what New Zealand was doing to help support Burma when it takes over the chair of Asean.

New Zealand has offered five scholarships for English language training to senior public servants.

Mr Lwin's visit is part of the country's increased international engagement since moving towards democratic reforms.

Mr McCully said there was more potential in the Philippines relationship. It was a big country with 98 million people and was growing quickly and consistently. It produces only 1 per cent of dairy products consumed so was a huge market.

Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

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