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Goff To Visit Middle East

5 January 2001

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Phil Goff, is leaving today on a nine day visit to New Zealand's largest and most important trading partners in the Middle East - the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

“This will be the first visit to the Middle East by a New Zealand Foreign Minister for many years,” Mr Goff said.

"It is long overdue. The last visit to Egypt was made in 1991 and to Saudi Arabia in 1995. A New Zealand Foreign Minister has not visited the UAE since the state was founded in 1971.

"New Zealand is in a strong position to strengthen and increase our trade with the region.

"We currently send $450m in exports there and all three countries have the potential to be fast growing markets. Our goal, for example, is for our exports to Egypt to double to over $200m a year within the next two years.

"Countries like the UAE are starting to diversify their income sources away from oil dependency. They are looking for new investment opportunities in a diverse range of sectors including information technology, education and health services, super yacht design and tourism. Such investment would generate significant growth and job opportunities in New Zealand. While I am there I will be meeting with the owner and Chief Executive of Emirates Airlines to encourage him to open up an air service between New Zealand and the Middle East. Gulf tourists with high disposable incomes have the ability to provide a huge boost to our tourism sector.

"I will be looking to develop our political relationship with the region. In particular I will be discussing with the moderate Arab countries what they see as the key barriers to a peace settlement being reached between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Other causes of regional instability including the situation in Iraq will also be on the agenda, as will the subject of human rights.

From Cairo Mr Goff will visit the 26 peacekeepers in the New Zealand contingent in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai.

"New Zealand has from the start made a significant contribution to peacekeeping in the Middle East and its role in that capacity has generated considerable goodwill and respect for our position.

"While our peacekeeping forces in the Sinai gain limited attention in the New Zealand media, I want to pay a personal tribute to our service men and women for the important role they carry out on our behalf," Mr Goff said.

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