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Task Force to focus on Asia relations

Task Force to focus on Asia relations

A Ministerial Task Force has been established to build on recent breakthroughs in economic links with Asia, Foreign Minister Phil Goff announced today.

"There have been some positive developments in recent months, such as the agreed framework opening the way for free trade negotiations with China in early 2005; talks on a closer Economic Partnership with Thailand, and ASEAN Economic Ministers calling for a free trade agreement with New Zealand and Australia," said Mr Goff, who is in Japan on a three-day visit.

"We also have a study underway on how to achieve closer relations with India, and New Zealand is gearing up for the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan.

"It is important that New Zealand takes full advantage of these developments. It will be the Task Force's job to coordinate work being done across government on relations with Asia, and to develop a suitable policy framework that takes the private sector's interests into account as well."

The Task Force will also follow up the Seriously Asia initiative, which was organised by the Asia 2000 Foundation and launched by the Prime Minister last August with the aim of identifying priority goals and practical actions to energise New Zealand's links with Asia.

"Asia's importance to our future continues to grow. We need to go on the front foot and develop our skills and networks in Asia, and we need to make sure we are adequately informed and organised to take advantage of the rapid changes occurring in this dynamic region," Mr Goff said.

"In addition to the busy trade agenda, we have vital political and security interests to pursue. The increased Asian presence in our communities is greatly strengthening cultural links.

"We also need to encourage the people of Asia to take a fresh look at New Zealand and the opportunities and creative talents on offer here," Mr Goff said.

The Task Force will bring together the principal Ministers involved in Asian relationships - Foreign Affairs and Trade, Trade Negotiations, Finance, Economic Development, Immigration, Education, Defence, Tourism, Research Science and Technology. Other Ministers will participate as required.

ENDS

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