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NZ brings dynamic new focus to Latin America

Friday 18 August 2000
Media Statement

NZ brings dynamic new focus to Latin America


Prime Minister Helen Clark today launched the government's new strategy for building relations with Latin America.

At a function at Auckland University, Helen Clark said New Zealand shared many interests with Latin American countries, but had paid only limited attention to those relationships in the past.

"Our new government is committed to broadening and strengthening the relationships it has with Latin America across three broad areas: international and regional co-operation, economic and trade issues, and people-to-people links.

"If New Zealand is to build successful trading and economic relationships with countries like Brazil and Mexico, it must also show a commitment to interacting on a broader basis. We want to build and improve not only trade and diplomatic relations, but also cultural and social ties.

"New Zealand needs to project itself in the world in a more rounded way than in the past. The government needs to work with people in business, education, the scientific community, tourism, the creative sector and Maori to make a mark in Latin America.

"An early step in the development of the strategy was to review our diplomatic representation in Latin America. The decision to open a New Zealand embassy in Brasilia next year has been taken in line with the strategy.

"We have also identified a range of international issues on which New Zealand and Latin America have common views. In recent years, for example, New Zealand has worked closely with Brazil and Mexico on disarmament issues through the New Agenda Coalition, whose work helped produce a good outcome at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York in May.

"There are important environmental issues before us too. New Zealand is already working closely with Latin American countries on issues such as global warming, fisheries, whaling, and the Antarctic, where we share many common values and aims.

"Latin America holds great potential for New Zealand. Its population is forecast to reach 625 million within the next 15 years. Trade between New Zealand and the region has risen sharply in recent years, with exports rising from $184 million in 1990 to $841 million in 1998, before falling back due to the region's recent economic slump.

"There is considerable scope for exports to rise and diversify. Brazil alone, with a population of 170 million, is barely known to New Zealand exporters, yet spends around US$57 billion a year on imports.

"The strategy provides a framework for New Zealand to engage with Latin America on trade and economic issues. The government has tagged $100,000 of the Trade Access Support Programme to improve access to Latin American countries.

"New Zealand will also continue to seek Chile's participation in a closer economic partnership with us and Singapore, and Australia and the United States if they agree to be part of it.

"This strategy represents a major step forward in the development of New Zealand's relations with Latin America.

"Not only has New Zealand a great deal to gain from stronger and broader relations with the region, but I hope Latin American countries see this initiative as beneficial to them as we enjoy increased trade, closer diplomatic and cultural relations, and increased exchanges between our countries," Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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