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PM to push new links with Latin America

Prime Minister Helen Clark leaves for Chile on Thursday to attend the inauguration of President Ricardo Lagos Escobar. She will also have discussions with Latin American leaders on how their countries and New Zealand can co-operate more closely on a range of issues, including disarmament, environmental issues and trade.

Helen Clark said the inauguration presented her with an ideal opportunity to meet not only Chile's new President, but also a number of other important regional and international figures.

As well as meeting President Lagos, Helen Clark will meet the new presidents of Argentina and Uruguay; the President of Brazil, ministers from other Latin nations including Peru and Mexico, and the Prime Ministers of Italy and Portugal.

The Prime Minister will also spend time in meetings and discussions with major New Zealand companies involved in Chile.

"This visit offers an opportunity to advance discussions in a number of areas. The government is keen to bring new momentum to international efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons. In recent years, we have worked closely with Brazil and Mexico on disarmament issues. I would like to discuss these issues with like-minded leaders and ministers while in Chile, and look in particular at how we can co-ordinate disarmament efforts in fora like the United Nations.

"There are also important environmental issues before us. New Zealand would like to work closely with Latin American countries on issues such as fisheries, whaling, and the Antarctic.

"With respect to New Zealand's bilateral relationship with Chile, we share the same ocean and we have a remarkable number of shared views and perceptions, including the recent election of centre-left governments.

"We pursue many common interests in international organisations such as APEC, the United Nations, the WTO, and the Cairns Group, and we also co-operate on Antarctica and other key environmental issues, and on nuclear disarmament.

"Attendance at President Lagos' inauguration is a good opportunity to begin expanding New Zealand's existing links with Latin America, and to lay the foundations for on-going dialogue in the future.

"Two-way trade with Chile totaled NZ$80 million in the year to June 1999, and New Zealand investments in Chile top NZ$1 billion. Trade links with Latin America have grown steadily since the mid 1990s, with New Zealand exports rising from NZ$590 million in 1995 to NZ$750 million in 1999.

"I will be visiting the New Zealand Dairy Board plant near Santiago, and meeting members of the New Zealand business community in Santiago, including companies like ENZA and NZ Post. In talks with the new Chilean government, we will look at ways in which the trading relationship with Chile and other Latin American countries can be further encouraged," Helen Clark said.

Contact: David Lewis 025-409 492, Mark Watts 025-822 734

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