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Thailand and New Zealand vow to strengthen economic ties as they set lofty new trade goals

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand and New Zealand on Wednesday vowed to boost economic cooperation with an aim to triple two-way trade by 2045, as the New Zealand leader visited Thailand for the first time in 11 years.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday and met with his Thai counterpart Srettha Thavisin at the government house on Wednesday. They discussed trade, education, investment, visa arrangements, tourism, transnational crime and cybersecurity.

“We have agreed to elevate Thailand-New Zealand relations to a strategic partnership in 2026 or sooner, which will mark the 70th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. This will create the momentum for us to further expand and deepen cooperation in all dimensions,” Srettha said during a joint news conference after the meeting.

Luxon said that trade between the countries has tripled since a free trade agreement was signed 20 years ago.

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"But today we have committed to look for further opportunities to expand our economic cooperation and for new opportunities. Today we announced an ambitious goal to triple our two-way trade by 2045,” he said.

Business delegations from both countries also held a meeting helmed by the two prime ministers at the government house, seeking to rapidly expand the bilateral economic relationship.

The two leaders said they looked forward to tariff-free entry for all Thai and New Zealand imports due to take effect Jan. 1. They also said they agreed to further facilitate visas between Thailand and New Zealand, and to resume direct flights that were shut after the pandemic.

Just before the news conference, the prime ministers presided over the signing of two agreements to increase cooperation in education and aviation supply, repair and maintenance.

The situation in neighboring Myanmar was also discussed. Srettha said Thailand is closely watching the tense situation on its northwestern border, where the key Myanmar town of Myawaddy recently fell to forces fighting the military, which seized power in 2021.

The Associated Press