New Zealand is well-regarded in Southeast Asia for its governance and support of global institutions, but it should improve its defense capabilities to strengthen ties in the region, said a new report on the country's place in Asia.
The report, ASEAN's Perspective of New Zealand's Place in Asia, looks at New Zealand's traditional and contemporary links with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
It said New Zealand merchandise trade with Southeast Asia had doubled in the past five years, accounting for 11 percent of New Zealand exports and 16 percent of imports.
"In terms of absolute value of exports, New Zealand is more important to the ASEAN region than vice versa. In 2009, ASEAN countries' exports to New Zealand amounted to 3.13 billion U.S. dollars compared with imports from New Zealand of 2.2 billion U.S. dollars," said the report commissioned by the Asia New Zealand Foundation (Asia:NZ).
"New Zealand may not carry significant economic or security weight in Asia, but it is well regarded because of its excellent governance, strong support of global institutions and the international rule of law, and its expertise in niche areas, especially education," said the report written by Southeast Asia security expert Daljit Singh, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
"It is also viewed as principled and trustworthy. ASEAN and its member countries value New Zealand for its low-key but effective contributions to ASEAN's security and economic agenda in the ASEAN- centered regional architecture and its general non-confrontational approach to sensitive issues."
The report said New Zealand had done well to overcome its " handicaps" of small population and geographical remoteness from Asia.