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Goff to Europe, United States

Goff to Europe, United States

Foreign Minister Phil Goff heads overseas tonight on a two-week visit to Ireland, the UK, Germany, Belgium and the US

Foreign Minister Phil Goff heads overseas tonight on a two-week visit to Ireland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and the United States.

In Ireland, Mr Goff will conduct New Zealand's twice-yearly Presidency consultations with the European Union, which provide an opportunity to discuss priority bilateral issues such as trade and immigration, and international affairs.

"The EU is only a month away from an historic enlargement. This is a good time to discuss progress and to remind our counterparts that New Zealand shares important common interests, as well as trade and social links to Europe," Mr Goff said.

"I will also take the opportunity to seek an update on new European proposals to combat terrorism and to reinforce New Zealand's commitment to working with the international community on security issues.

"At the same time, I will be conveying New Zealand's condolences to all European countries affected by the recent bombings in Madrid. Although Spain bore the brunt of the casualties, people of many other nationalities were among the dead and injured."

While in Dublin, Mr Goff will meet several members of the Irish government and give a keynote address to the Ireland/Australasia Business Association on business possibilities in New Zealand.

In his capacity as Justice Minister, Mr Goff will meet senior officials from the Criminal Assets Bureau to discuss the effectiveness of Irish legislation covering the seizure of assets gained through criminal activity.

In London he will hold similar talks with the director of Britain's Assets Recovery Agency and also meet a number of British ministers, including Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

"New Zealand's relationship with the UK is one of our closest and most valued, and we work side by side in many fields around the world. It is important to maintain the close dialogue we enjoy with the UK on a range of issues of mutual interest," Mr Goff said.

Attending a high-level international conference on Afghanistan will feature on Mr Goff's first day in Berlin, where he will also meet several members of the German government to cover foreign affairs and justice issues.

In Belgium Mr Goff will be meeting with EU officials including Javier Solana, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy.

"Visiting a number of European countries during one visit offers an opportunity to remind a variety of key decision-makers of New Zealand's contribution to security and stability in the Pacific region, and to focus attention on issues of importance to the wider Pacific region," he said.

In Washington Mr Goff will discuss foreign policy issues with members of the US Administration, including Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. He will also meet with the US/New Zealand Business Council, which has been a strong supporter of New Zealand's case for a Free Trade Agreement with the United States.

Mr Goff will also give an address on New Zealand's role in improving growth and security in the Asia Pacific region to the Asia Society, a key organisation for people with interests in America's relations with the broader Asian region. "New Zealand is playing an active role in the campaign against terrorism both in our own region and more widely.

"I look forward to the opportunity to exchange views with the US Administration, particularly on the current situation with regard to reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, where New Zealand is contributing," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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