Sri Lanka, NZ to advance diplomatic ties

Prime Minister John Key (AAP, file)
Prime Minister John Key (AAP, file)

New Zealand wants more access to a market that's a gateway to a fast-growing part of Asia and Sri Lanka wants to learn how to increase farm productivity.

These are the kind of gains both hope to get from closer relations helped by diplomatic posts signalled after a meeting of leaders on Saturday.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and his Sri Lankan counterpart Ranil Wickremesinghe announced plans for high commissions in each other's country in the next year or two after a meeting in Auckland.

Mr Key thanked Sri Lanka for a reduction some months ago in its tariff on dairy goods to 38 percent from 63 percent and said he looked forward to further reductions.

Mr Wickremesinghe said his country would "be going for further reduction of tariffs" in all goods as it strengthened its local producers.

Mr Key also announced New Zealand will work with Sri Lanka to pilot New Zealand's Farm IQ technology, a digital farm management and monitoring system, there.

"New Zealand really is far ahead on agriculture. We have a lot to learn," Mr Wickremesinghe said.

Sri Lanka was interested in the co-operative model New Zealand used for dairying and it was also studying New Zealand's MMP voting system for politics.

He addressed questions about human rights in Sri Lanka by saying "it's a quite open society today. Fear is no longer a factor".

"We hope that by next March we will have all this behind us."

Mr Key said Sri Lanka had embarked on a courageous course to rebuild the country after a generation-long civil war.

"We are keen to support that process both politically and by growing our strong economic relationship," he said.

Sri Lanka was a market of 21 million people nestled in a part of the world that had high demand, Mr Key said.

"We see it as a regional gateway."

It's the first bi-lateral visit by a Sri Lankan Prime Minister to New Zealand and comes after Mr Key visited Sri Lanka in February.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, Trade Minister Todd McClay and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy also attended the meeting.

Mr Key said they had a good discussion about what dairy co-operative Fonterra was doing in Sri Lanka and about opportunities for education providers.

New Zealanders would want to go on holiday there, Mr Key said, while Mr Wickremesinghe said "Sri Lanka is opening up to the world".