Key hopes to catch up with Obama at summit

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 07:29 09/11/2012
WINNER: Barack Obama's pathway to perform is clear.
Reuters
CONGRATS: Prime Minister John Key sent his best wishes in a text to Barack Obama when he was re-elected.

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Prime Minister John Key sent his best wishes in a text, but he will soon be able to congratulate re-elected United States President Barack Obama in person.

Mr Key confirmed yesterday that he would attend the East Asia Summit in Cambodia later this month. Mr Obama is also to attend.

Although no "bilateral" meeting is in the diary, officials expect the pair to chat informally.

"I'll definitely see him there assuming he turns up," Mr Key said. "There is so much going on at the East Asia Summit we'll have a great chance to have a chat."

After the summit, Mr Key will make the hour-long hop over the border into Myanmar. He will be the first New Zealand prime minister to visit the troubled country, which until recently was an international pariah.

The election of President Thein Sein in March last year ended almost half a century of military rule and ushered in sweeping change.

Political reforms include the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, a ceasefire with rebels and by-elections in April.

Mr Key will meet both political leaders on his visit.

The Government signalled a thawing in relations yesterday by recognising the country by its official name, Myanmar. Foreign Minister Murray McCully visited in April and his counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin was here last month.

Washington also signalled Mr Obama will travel to Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, later this month before he attends the summit in Phnom Penh on November 20.

Mr Key said the political and economic reform in Myanmar in the last year had been historic.

He also sees "real opportunities" for New Zealand businesses as Myanmar rebuilds. Exports there stand at about $18 million a year, mostly in dairy and poultry.

He is also likely to raise human rights issues such as the ethnic violence in Rakhine province, which has displaced thousands of Rohingya Muslims.

At the summit, Mr Key is expected to take part in the launch of the negotiations towards a new Asian trade pact. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will involve the 10 Asean countries, including China, and is widely regarded as a rival to the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Mr Key will join leaders from Australia, Japan, Korea, India and China and new members Russia and the US, at the Pacific power forum.

New Zealand will host the 15th round of TPP talks in Auckland next month.

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- The Dominion Post

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