PM Speech At Official State Dinner Turkey
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Official State Dinner
8.00pm (Ankara time)
Friday 21 April 2000
It is an honour for me to be the first New Zealand Prime Minister to make an official visit to Turkey. I thank the Turkish Government for the warmth of the welcome we have received.
At the outset, I would like to reiterate the condolences of the government and the people of New Zealand for the suffering caused by the earthquakes which devastated Turkey last year. Later during my visit I plan to visit one of the affected areas, and offer support for the relief work under way.
At first glance, New Zealand and Turkey may seem to have little in common. We live at opposite ends of the earth. New Zealand is a small country surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and peopled for only a little more than one millennium. Turkey is a large nation, with thousands of years of human history, and sits astride the land bridge between Europe and Asia.
The first contact between New Zealand and Turkey was the Gallipoli campaign which was a tragedy for both our countries. Many thousands of young men on both sides died in the conflict. When I go to Gallipoli again on Anzac Day next week, it will be to honour the memory of all the soldiers, including New Zealanders and Turks, who fell together in that battle. One of those soldiers was my grandfather’s brother.
For New Zealand, the battle at Gallipoli was a defining event which led to a developing recognition of our unique identity as a separate nation. For Turkey, Gallipoli was significant because Mustafa Kemal displayed his great leadership abilities there, and went on to become the founder of the Turkish Republic.
I am particularly pleased that I will be able to represent New Zealand at the first Anzac Day ceremony held in the Peace Park being established by the Turkish Government. This initiative symbolises the peace and friendship which has grown up between us despite the horror of war. Personally I have long been moved by the generosity of Ataturk’s words to the parents of the young men from foreign nations, including New Zealand, who died at Gallipoli.
I believe that in the relationship between New Zealand and Turkey we need to look at the future as well as to the past. Both our countries are in the process of change.
I know that Turkey has a programme of economic reforms; that you are looking ahead to membership of the European Union one day; and that your strategic position in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Middle East gives Turkey an important role in the world this century.
In New Zealand our new social democratic government has entered office with a commitment to economic policies which will provide a fairer deal for all members of our society. We will also be proactive in seeing that our exporters get the support they need from government to develop new and promising markets. That is why I invited a New Zealand business delegation to accompany me on this visit to Turkey. In addition, New Zealand seeks to play an active role in international affairs on a wide range of issues.
Relations between our two countries are very good, and we see that goodwill at every level. When New Zealanders travel to Turkey, as they are doing in ever increasing numbers, they are met with genuine friendship by Turkish people. Our two governments also have an easy and cordial working relationship.
But I believe we could do much more. I regret that two-way trade has declined in recent years, to a point where it barely registers in our statistics. New Zealand’s exports to Turkey last year amounted to just 12.5 million US dollars – just 0.02 per cent of Turkey’s imports for that period. Turkey’s exports to New Zealand, at around 14 million US dollars, have done little better.
Neither of our countries can take any satisfaction from these figures. They are well below the potential of both our economies. We can do better, and we must do better.
The opportunities are there. New Zealand is a very open economy. I invite the Turkish business community to look more closely at the potential export market we offer. Turkey too is a major importer of goods and services from around the world, and should be of interest to a wider range of New Zealand exporters.
I hope that my visit will mark a turning point in our trade relations. The New Zealand business representatives who are accompanying me are eager to develop further trade links with Turkey. I am looking forward to spending a day in Istanbul on 26 April meeting leaders of the Turkish business community and promoting trade possibilities.
There are many areas where New Zealand is a world leader in terms of quality and innovation. In areas such as postal services, earthquake engineering, and modern agricultural techniques, New Zealand has internationally acknowledged expertise which could be helpful to Turkey. In addition to our commodity and branded primary produce exports, we are also increasingly exporters of leading edge products based on new technologies and innovative design.
We in New Zealand would very much welcome a high-level trade visit from Turkey, if one proved possible later this year. I also emphasise the importance we attach to this year’s meeting of the Joint Economic Commission between our two countries which will take place in Turkey in the second half of this year. It provides an opportunity for an in-depth look at the potential for trade and to identify any problems which need to be addressed.
Let me conclude by touching briefly on our countries’ wider international role. New Zealand and Turkey have worked together in international forums in pursuit of common objectives. I hope we can continue that co-operation. New Zealand has a strong commitment to achieving a more peaceful and a more just world. We will do everything we can, as a small country, to make our voice heard. We will continue to play a role through our contributions to United Nations-led peacekeeping and through promoting global disarmament.
Ataturk once spoke of “peace at home, peace in the world”. I believe that is Turkey’s goal. I know it is New Zealand’s goal. I know we can work together to that end.