This week's visit by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong underlined New Zealand's progress in engaging with Asia.

Our drive to look northwest towards billions of potential consumers received strong endorsement from Mr Lee, who declared us "part of the regional architecture".

Citing this country's involvement in key regional institutions and advocacy for free trade, he talked up New Zealand's opportunities in Asia.

Mr Lee and Singapore are influential friends. The city-state is a key US ally while enjoying strong links to China.

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Relations between New Zealand and Singapore are, in his words, "very happy now".

The good feeling extends to the idea of New Zealand and Singapore possibly collaborating to produce foods to the "Asian taste" and using Singapore to springboard into other Asian markets.

With Europe and America economically challenged, every opportunity to trade with Asia should be embraced. The Asia NZ Foundation remains key in helping us get that right.