ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan will visit New Zealand next week, Foreign Minister Murray McCully announced today.
ASEAN - the Association of South East Asian Nations - is an important regional grouping comprising Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam.
"Dr Surin is one of the region's most prominent statesmen. He is a former Thai Foreign Minister, and an articulate advocate for greater economic integration within ASEAN, and East Asia Summit countries, including New Zealand," Mr McCully said.
"He is also closely associated with the soon to be established ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights.
"The ASEAN region is of particular importance to New Zealand for trade and security. Its 10 member countries combined are our third largest market, with exports more than doubling since 2003 to reach $5.8 billion last year.
"New Zealand, Australia and ASEAN recently signed a Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA). It is a major accomplishment for the region and creates a strategic beachhead for New Zealand to trade more easily there.
"East Asia Summit Economic Ministers have also recently recommended proposals for a Closer Economic Partnership in East Asia.
"As well as promoting political, economic and security cooperation and integration, ASEAN works in disaster relief, counter-terrorism, pandemic preparedness planning, and environmental issues - all areas in which New Zealand and ASEAN co-operate closely," Mr McCully said.
Dr Surin is to meet with Prime Minister John Key; Mr McCully, and Trade Minister Tim Groser, as well as Maori business representatives, and experts in disaster mitigation. He will also address the ASEAN/New Zealand Combined Business Council.