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ASEAN Summit significant for New Zealand

Media Statement
1 December 2004 (NZ time)

ASEAN Summit significant for New Zealand

Prime Minister Helen Clark said today that the summit meeting with the leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a very important step in reinvigorating New Zealand’s ties with the region.

Helen Clark was commenting after attending the two-day summit meeting in Vientiane, Lao, with Australian Prime Minister John Howard. New Zealand and Australia were invited to the summit in recognition of their three decades as dialogue partners of ASEAN.

"The government is serious about seeking fresh ideas and initiatives to reinvigorate New Zealand’s relationships with ASEAN, and with Asia in general," Helen Clark said.

"The emergence of plans to launch an ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand free trade arrangement, allied with discussions around regional security, counter-terrorism co-operation, and development assistance, makes this a very important meeting for New Zealand.

"The Vientiane Action Programme, adopted yesterday by ASEAN leaders foreshadows the ways and means of delivering a strategy for deeper regional integration within ASEAN.

"The ASEAN leaders’ approach to an ASEAN Community is outward looking and inclusive. New Zealand has taken up the opportunity to engage with ASEAN as it embarks on this historic process. Besides its trade and economic dimensions, ASEAN’s action programme has clear aims for political, security, social and cultural progress.

"New Zealand welcomes this approach and the wider underlying vision.

"In this context, I advised the ASEAN leaders that New Zealand is studying, with positive intent, possible accession to the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Co-operation. This would be a signal that New Zealand shares ASEAN’s desire to strengthen peace and stability in South-East Asia.

"New Zealand has had formal relations with ASEAN since 1975 when it became one of ASEAN’s earliest dialogue partners. This summit marks three decades of close and co-operative links in a range of areas.

"As I told the Seriously Asia forum last year, dynamic developments are occurring in the region and they are being reflected in quite rapid shifts in national policies, structures and institutions. It is important for New Zealand that we engage wherever possible with the emerging regional architecture.

"This summit serves as a springboard for strengthening our ties with the ASEAN countries. Deeper and more inclusive regional integration offers new opportunities for New Zealand to engage with its South East Asian neighbours," Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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