PRIME MINISTER John Key has become the first New Zealand leader to visit the reclusive nation of Myanmar.
Key arrived in the Asian nation this week and declared the historic visit was more than just symbolic.
He followed US President Barack Obama, who visited the country, ruled by an oppressive military junta for five decades, on Monday.
It has made small shifts towards democracy recently, and the west has lifted sanctions and thawed diplomatic links.
Myanmar, previously called Burma, has valuable natural resources such as oil, gas, teak and rubies, and has opportunities for investment in agriculture and telecommunications.
It recently made a deal with Visa, which will end its reliance on cash.
Dairy company Fonterra already does $18m worth of trade there, and Mr Key will attend a business event.
“There’s lots of opportunities: it’s arable land, a big population [about 60 million] and it is going to get wealthy over time,” Key told Fairfax NZ.
“If you roll the clock forward ten years time, most of the leaders I talk to around the region think it will be an increasingly important market.”
Human rights issues are still a concern, with ethnic violence erupting in an area which left 100,000 displaced and 100 dead.
New Zealand is also set to pledge aid.
Mr Key will meet opposition leader opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as members of the government.