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Prime Minister Returns From Latin America

PM excited by potential for better economic relations with Latin America

Prime Minister Helen Clark returned from Chile today excited by the potential for building better economic and other relations with Latin America.

During her three days in Santiago Helen Clark had formal meetings with the new Chilean president Ricardo Lagos, with the presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, and with Mexico's foreign minister.

Helen Clark said that Mr Lagos was well disposed to closer economic relations with New Zealand. She said that Chile, Uruguay and Argentina were all impressed with the technology lead New Zealand has in primary industries and that there seems to be potential for more joint ventures to the advantage of both countries.

"Brazil presents the biggest economic opportunities and challenges for New Zealand. While we work closely with Brazil on agricultural trade issues and disarmament and environmental issues, we are barely scratching the surface in promoting trade and investment between our two countries.

"I hope in this term of government to see a New Zealand embassy based in Brasilia, following on the recent establishment of the consulate in Sao Paulo through the good offies of Tradenz.

"I shall also be consulting with Tradenz on their views on how we could better assist New Zealand exporters to penetrate the Latin American economies successfully.

"A major reason for going to Chile was to ensure that New Zealand's interest in stronger relations with the continent was registered with the presidents of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. This mission was successfully accomplished.

"Three of these presidents are very newly elected and I have taken the opportunity to present our interest in their countries at the earliest possible stage.

"In the coming months the Government will be finalising a new strategy for strengthening New Zealand's relations with Latin America. That strategy will be well informed by the high level talks in Santiago this last weekend and the follow up diplomatic work now being done."

Helen Clark also met formally with the prime ministers of Italy and Portugal and with the head of the International Labour Organisation.

"Both Italy's and Portugal's prime ministers have pledged to throw their weight behind the reform of the European Union's agricultural subsidies.

"And the ILO chief expressed his delight that the Government will this week be introducing new labour legislation designed to make our law compliant with ILO conventions," Helen Clark said.

Contact: Mike Munro 04 471 9327, 025 428 835

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