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PM to attend ASEAN leaders’ summit


PM to attend ASEAN leaders’ summit


Prime Minister Helen Clark will visit Vientiane, Laos, to attend a commemorative summit on 29-30 November with the leaders of ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations) and Australia.

Helen Clark said the summit marks 30 years since New Zealand and Australia became dialogue partners of ASEAN. New Zealand became a dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1975 and the Vientiane summit will mark the opening to New Zealand’s commemorative year in 2005. Australia became a partner in 1974.

“New Zealand’s relations with ASEAN have advanced significantly over the last eighteen months and this summit is evidence of that,” Helen Clark said.

“This is only the second time in 30 years that New Zealand has been invited to attend a summit of ASEAN leaders, the other being when Robert Muldoon met with ASEAN Leaders in 1977 in Malaysia.

“A key outcome of the summit is expected to be agreement by leaders to launch negotiations on an ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand free trade area.”

In April this year ASEAN economic ministers supported moves towards such a free trade agreement. In September Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton, with his Australian and ASEAN colleagues, reached agreement on a principles paper to be recommended to leaders as the basis for the launch of FTA negotiations.

“The focus of summit discussions will not, however, focus on economic issues. They will cover the wider relationship including political, cultural, security and people-to-people links between ASEAN and New Zealand.

“I welcome these developments as they reinforce the value of the work initiated through last year’s Seriously Asia forum,” Helen Clark said.

Member countries of ASEAN are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Helen Clark departs on Sunday and returns to New Zealand on 2 December.

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