Prime Minister John Key said the re-establishment of trade links with Iran could be a bonus for New Zealand's halal meat industry -- an industry that first set up to cater for Iran before sanctions halted the trade.

Mr Key met with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during Dr Zarif's visit to New Zealand and both emerged saying they were keen to rebuild the old trade relationship.

Dr Zarif said there were "vast possibilities" for businesses in New Zealand and Iran, and trade in traditional areas such as oil and gas on Iran's side and meat and dairy from New Zealand, as well as growing areas such as science and technology.

"There is serious interest on the part of the business community here and I'm confident there is serious interest on the part of the business community in Iran to engage in mutually beneficial trade."


Mr Key said the halal meat industry in New Zealand was established when it traded with Iran in the past and that was still thriving. "You've got 80 million people living in Iran and a growing middle class so quite a lot of demand for our products and not just meat."

He said New Zealand had also historically imported much of its oil from Iran and expected that to start again.

Iran was New Zealand's fifth largest trading partner in the 1980s but sanctions saw trade drop from $300 million to $90 million. "So there's no question we can increase the level of trading activity. I think there's a genuine willingness to co-operate and there's clearly demand on their side."

Mr Key said he had raised human rights issues with Dr Zarif, in particular the use of the death penalty. While New Zealand did not agree with the death penalty it did trade with other countries which had the death penalty.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully is due to visit Iran later this year and Dr Zarif said it was likely a business delegation would also visit at some point.