Illustrative image (Source: Theaustralian.com.au)

Kuala Lumpur (VNA) – New Zealand Prime Minister John Key on November 22 said the country will invest more than 200 million NZ dollars (131 million USD) in the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) over the next three years.

The announcement came at a summit conference to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and ASEAN, which was under the framework of the 27th ASEAN Summit and related meetings in Kuala Lumpur from November 18-22.

The initiative is considered part of the two sides’ agreement to upgrade their relationship from a comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership.

The investment would make ASEAN the second largest regional recipient of New Zealand development assistance after the Pacific.

Accordingly, the funding will focus on building the capability of the region's people, and creating links between the two sides’ young leaders and emerging entrepreneurs.

The PM expressed belief that with a total population of 625 million people and a gross domestic product (GDP) expected to grow to 5.2 trillion USD by 2030, the bloc will present significant opportunities for New Zealand.

He underscored that the two sides are working closely on shared political and security challenges, as the new agreement bolsters cooperation.

Looking forward, New Zealand will focus its cooperation with ASEAN on several key strategies: training, exchanges and greater flows of labourers with a focus on youth, and closing the development gap utilising New Zealand’s expertise in agriculture and trade.-VNA