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Goff Visit To Latin America

11 January 2002

Foreign Minister Phil Goff leaves this weekend for a four-nation visit to Latin America.

He will become the first New Zealand Foreign Minister to visit the central American nations of Cuba, El Salvador and Guatemala and will also visit Peru to establish contacts with the new Toledo administration.

“Our Latin American strategy is designed to build a stronger and broad-based relationship with Latin America. While the continent is becoming an increasingly valuable trading partner, it is important that economic and commercial relations are underpinned by a close political and people-to-people relationship.

“Exports to the four countries totalled NZ$342 million in the year to June 2001. They are important markets for dairy produce. As well as Fonterra however, other companies such as Tait Communications and Transend are also developing markets there.

“Politically there has in the past been few direct links in Central America. We have been accredited to Guatemala for three years with diplomatic accreditation to Cuba and El Salvador established only in the past few months.

“This visit will raise awareness of New Zealand in those countries, open up lines of communication with them and identify areas of future bilateral, regional and multilateral cooperation.

“The visit to Peru will complete bilateral visits to our six major partners in the region, following the Prime Ministers visit to the region last year. It provides an opportunity to establish personal relations with senior members of the new Toledo administration. The visit will also focus on areas of mutual interest including APEC, Antarctica, disarmament, human rights and the environment.

“Latin America will be an increasingly important part of our international relationships in the future. New Zealand’s exports to Latin America as a whole increased by 83 percent to NZ$1.2 billion in the year to June 2001. We are now consolidating our overall relationship with closer political, cultural and people-to-people ties. This visit will contribute to that outcome,” Mr Goff said.

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