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New Zealand is committed to developing a mature bilateral relationship with Myanmar (officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar) in response to the political and economic reforms initiated in 2011. After decades of limited interaction while Myanmar was under military rule, there have been a number of high-level visits over the past 18 months. The opening of the New Zealand Embassy Office in Yangon in September 2013 demonstrates the importance New Zealand places on the Myanmar relationship.
Business linkages are currently growing from a modest base. An increasing number of New Zealand companies are operating, or interested, in the Myanmar market. Key sectors of interest include dairy, agribusiness, consultancy services and telecommunications. NZTE’s Trade Commissioner in Bangkok is accredited to Myanmar.
New Zealand’s trade relationship with Myanmar is small (NZ’s 97th largest trading partner) but growing. For the year ending June 2013, exports were valued at NZ$20.5 million, up from NZ$17.9 million for the year ending June 2012. Dairy products account for around 90% of New Zealand’s exports. Fonterra appointed an in-country manager in November 2012 to oversee an expansion in their operations.
On its current trajectory Myanmar has the potential, over time, to become a more valuable political and economic partner for New Zealand, as we share both bilateral and regional interests. Tariff barriers for New Zealand exporters are low (under 15% for all major products) and both countries are members of the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (see regional section below).
Imports from Myanmar were valued at around NZ$1.2 million (FYE June 2013) with wood products featuring prominently. Myanmar’s manufacturing sector is still very underdeveloped but is expected to improve as investment flows into the Myanmar economy. New Zealand has never imposed bilateral trade sanctions against Myanmar products.
New Zealand Trade (year ended Dec 2012)
NZ’s 97th largest trading partner
NZ$ 20.5 million (FOB)
Dairy ($18.4m); Pharmaceutical products ($0.7m); Live chickens ($0.6m)
NZ$1.5 million (CIF)
Wood ($0.5m); Vegetables ($0.4m)
There are no direct air links from New Zealand to Myanmar. Connections are available through Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. The frequency of these connections is increasing as Myanmar opens its economy.
Tourism is currently growing from a very low level. 760 New Zealanders visited Myanmar for the year ending December 2012, up from 295 two years previously. Minimal numbers of people from Myanmar currently visit New Zealand.
The number of students from Myanmar in New Zealand is low, although Myanmar is a market of significant medium to long-term potential for New Zealand education providers. New Zealand's Aid Programme currently funds 22 English Language for Officials scholars from Myanmar government agencies and 8 New Zealand ASEAN scholars.
Relations between Myanmar and New Zealand can be traced back to World War Two. A number of New Zealand personnel served in Myanmar during fighting in Asia. New Zealand provided development assistance to Myanmar, including through scholarships and technical schools, until the late 1980s. After decades of minimal contact while Myanmar was under military rule, New Zealand has moved to normalise relations in response to the economic and political reforms initiated under the government of President Thein Sein in place since March 2011. Reforms have included releases of political prisoners, lifting of media restrictions, and free and fair by-elections in April 2012. General elections due in 2015 will be an important date for the country’s reform process. Planned transport and energy links will place Myanmar at the crossroads of major regional trading routes, especially into China (via Yunnan Province) and India, the world’s two most populous nations.
Diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Myanmar are maintained via accredited Ambassadors in Bangkok and Canberra respectively. New Zealand established a diplomatic presence in Yangon in 2013. Since the reform process has commenced, bilateral contact has increased, including visits to Myanmar by Prime Minister Key and Foreign Minister McCully, and visits to New Zealand by President Thein Sein, Myanmar Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann and Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin.
New Zealand has a modest, but growing, developmental relationship with Myanmar. Support to Myanmar is provided through the Mekong and the ASEAN Regional Programmes. These programmes focus on sustainable economic development through promoting agriculture, disaster risk management, and human resource development.
A NZ$6 million dairy project is currently being designed, focused on supporting small scale semi-commercial dairy production and processing. This is an area where New Zealand has internationally recognised technical expertise. New Zealand’s dairy sector was included in the programme during visits by President Thein Sein and Lower House Speaker Shwe Mann in March 2013.
New Zealand has significantly increased its human resource development support to Myanmar by expanding the New Zealand ASEAN Scholars (NZAS) awards (from 3 to 10 awards per annum) and the English Language Training for Officials (ELTO) programme (from 6 places to 20 per annum). Two Senior ELTO (ELTSO) awards are also offered to senior officials at director-general and vice-minister level to take part in 8 weeks of English language training in New Zealand and a Myanmar senior government official participated in ELTSO for the first time in 2012.
New Zealand's Aid Programme has also supported an initiative for young Myanmar community leaders delivered by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU). This initiative was established in 2008 as a three year programme that enabled young Myanmar civil society leaders to study English as well as democracy, human rights and leadership in Wellington. To date, 24 students have received scholarships for the annual 25 week course.
Myanmar also benefits from the New Zealand Aid Programme’s support to regional activities in the Greater Mekong Sub-region such as the Mekong Institute, the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking and the Mekong River Commission and other ASEAN-led activities such as the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre and the Young Business Leaders Initiative.
The Myanmar government changed the country's name from the anglicised Burma to Myanmar in 1988. In recognition of the democratic and political reforms of President Thein Sein's government, in late 2012 Cabinet changed New Zealand's official naming convention to Myanmar.
New Zealand does not yet have direct defence relations with Myanmar. New Zealand defence personnel have some interaction with Myanmar's military in regional defence meetings.
As former British colonies, New Zealand and Myanmar have some shared traditions. New Zealand had a small Myanmar diaspora of 726 in the 2006 census (now likely much higher), mostly comprised of former refugees. New Zealand has accepted over 1100 refugees of Myanmar origin in the last five years.
The Myanmar diaspora is beginning to become more prominent and there are now regular cultural events, such as Myanmar New Year, in Auckland and Wellington.
In July 1997, Myanmar, along with Laos, became a full member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). New Zealand has been an ASEAN Dialogue partner since 1976. Through this ASEAN connection, Myanmar and New Zealand are members of regional and wider groupings including the security-focused ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit (EAS). Myanmar and New Zealand are also parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) which entered into force on 1 January 2010.
Myanmar will chair ASEAN, and associated meetings such as the East Asia Summit, in 2014 and looks set to become a more active ASEAN participant.
Myanmar is a member of the United Nations and other international institutions such as the World Bank and World Trade Organisation. New Zealand supports Myanmar’s reintegration into the international system after decades of limited contact while the country was under military rule. Myanmar was host of the World Economic Regional Forum in June 2013 and it is due to host the South East Asian Games in December 2013.
To New Zealand
The Embassy of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Canberra is accredited to New Zealand.
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
22 Arkana Street
Canberra ACT 2600
Ph: (61 6) 6273 3811 (61 6) 6273 3751
Fax (61 6) 6273 4357
New Zealand opened an Embassy Office in Yangon in September 2013.
Street Address: No. 43 (C), Inya Myaing Road, Shwe Taung Kyar (2) Ward, Bahan Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Telephone: +95 1 230 5805, +95 1 122 1603
Facsimile: +95 1 230 5805,
Office hours: Mon-Fri 0800-1200, 1300-1630 hrs
Consular - legal and Notarial service: by appointment, Monday to Friday.
The New Zealand Ambassador in Bangkok remains New Zealand’s accredited representative to Myanmar and has oversight of the Yangon Embassy Office.
The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Myanmar [external link].
Enquiries may be directed to Consular Division at the following numbers: Phone: 00 64 494-8500; Fax: 00 64 494 8506.