Key leads Thai business trip

Last updated 18:26 18/11/2013
Yingluck Shinawatra and John Key
BUSINESS TIES: Thai PM Yingluck Shinawatra and NZ PM John Key met before formal talks.

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Prime Minister John Key has kicked off a two-day mission to super-charge trade with Thailand.

Key and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy are leading a delegation of 23 business leaders in Bangkok.

Thailand is New Zealand's 10th largest market.

Key wants to boost New Zealand's presence and expand opportunities for Kiwi companies in the meat and education sectors.

"One of our strategies is make sure that we are not solely focused on China," he said. "There is a huge and burgeoning middle class right across Asia, and Thailand is an important part of that."

Fisher and Paykel has a huge presence in Thailand. And around 3000 Thai school children a year come New Zealand for study. "There's a lot of opportunity for our universities," Key said.

He kicked off the day at Connect Asia Pacific, a UN-led information and communications technology summit of 37 nations. This afternoon he is attending a business networking lunch, before meeting Thai Airways chairman Ampon Kittiampon.

Around 115,000 Kiwis a year travel to Thailand, mostly for holidays, with 20,000 going the other way.

Key will tomorrow have formal talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, although they met today at the summit.

He wants to expand a free trade agreement signed in 2006.

However, proposals to reform Thailand's constitution have re-ignited unrest in the country, with the ruling party facing a crucial court ruling this week. Key said no matter who was in government, New Zealand will want to remain a long-term relationship.

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- Fairfax Media

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