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New Zealand is hoping to boost its technology trade with Vietnam: it has opened a new Kiwi technology center at Quang Trung Software City, in Ho Chi Minh City, to act as a hub for New Zealand technology companies investing in and doing business in Vietnam and the ASEAN region.

The development is headed by New Zealand software services business Augen Software Group, which last year became the first New Zealand company to win a Vietnam IT Excellence award Health-related technology companies Orion Health and HealthTech, and apparel manufacturing optimization company ShapeShifter will also have a presence in the center.

Opening the new center, New Zealand's Economic Development Minister, Steven Joyce, said: 'Our companies lead the world in a number of market sectors as diverse as wireless infrastructure, health IT, transport and logistics technologies, digital content, geospatial, and telecommunications. 'This is a fantastic opportunity for New Zealand technology companies and I look forward to more of them utilizing the Kiwi Connection hub and meeting with businesses from around the region who want to work with New Zealand companies and use technology services from within ASEAN.'

The opening of the center was part of a program of events celebrating business and tourism links between New Zealand and Viet Nam, with the Minister travelling on the first direct Air New Zealand flight between Auckland and Ho Chi Minh City.

Viet Nam is New Zealand's fastest growing trade market in Southeast Asia, with merchandise exports doubling since 2007.

Joyce also announced plans to build the NZ/Viet Nam Friendship Bridge across Dien Bien Phu Street '“ a major arterial route in Ho Chi Minh City, using Glulam, a New Zealand wood-based construction material  that is lighter and stronger than steel.

The minister also announced an extra $NZ3.6 million in funding over four years for the '˜New Zealand Story',  an initiative designed to build New Zealand's profile internationally to benefit exporters. He said his visit to Ho Chi Minh City had 'underlined the size of the challenge of growing and maintaining the awareness of New Zealand not just here, but in hundreds of key cities across the Asia-Pacific region and the wider world.'