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Trade Minister To Visit Middle East

28 March 2002

Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton leaves on Saturday for a 13-day trade mission to the Middle East.

Mr Sutton will visit the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Iran.

This will be the first bilateral-related visit by a New Zealand Trade Minister to the region for three years, with the last such visit to Cairo in 1998 and to the UAE and Iran in 1999.

Mr Sutton said that he would carry out an extended programme in Dubai and Abu Dhabi that had had to be cancelled in November when the World Trade Organisation meeting had run a day and a half over time.

In Egypt and Iran, he would co-chair the sixth and eighth sessions of the respective Joint Economic Commissions with those countries, he said.

Several New Zealand companies are timing visits to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Iran at the same time as Mr Sutton's visit.

Mr Sutton said the three countries being visited were in the top four of New Zealand's export markets to the Middle East.

"Their combined merchandise export value alone was NZ$458million out of a total of NZ$1 billion to the wider Middle East in the year to June 2001. With the exception of the UAE, the trade balance with Egypt and Iran is substantially in our favour."

Exports were dominated by food products, particularly meat and dairy, he said.

"I hope to reinforce New Zealand's growing reputation in the region as a supplier of safe food products, particularly in the light of recent international food safety scares."

Mr Sutton said there were also opportunities for New Zealand businesses to establish niche markets in the services and new technology sectors.

"There is particular interest in New Zealand as a supplier of high quality and cost-effective education, health and tourism services, as well as a strategic long term investment destination.

"Further consultancy opportunities exist in public sector financial management reform, postal services reform, exploration of the region's vast oil and gas reserves, fisheries management, telecommunications, building supplies and information technology."

Mr Sutton will return to New Zealand on April 11.

Ends

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