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Helen Clark Speech: Norway Prime Minister's Lunch

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Address at Official Luncheon in Honour of Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik, Prime Minister of Norway

Grand Hall, Parliament Wellington

1.45 pm

Monday 14 March 2005

It is my pleasure today to welcome the Prime Minister of Norway, Kjell Magne Bondevik, his wife, Mrs Bjørg Bondevik, and his delegation.

Last year I made the first prime ministerial visit from New Zealand to Norway. I am now very pleased to welcome my host in Norway, Prime Minister Bondevik, who is the first Norwegian Prime Minister to pay a visit to New Zealand.

Norway and New Zealand may be geographically a long way apart, but we are very likeminded in most issues which confront the international community. In addition, both our countries are small states which recognise that our interests lie in multilateral co-operation and a strong international legal framework.

New Zealand recognises Norway’s strong record in the field of conflict resolution. On many occasions Norway has shown both a willingness and the ability to tackle conflicts which others had consigned to the too-hard basket. Many will be aware of Norway’s pivotal role in the agreement of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians. Norway has also been engaged for many years in seeking a resolution to the conflict in Sri Lanka. It has been involved in efforts to resolve conflict in areas as far flung as the Sudan, the Philippines, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Somalia, Colombia, Uganda, and Guatemala.

Both New Zealand and Norway are active in UN backed peacekeeping and support missions. Norway, like New Zealand, opposed the war in Iraq, but like us demonstrated its commitment to Iraqi reconstruction by deploying engineers to assist. Norway has also deployed military personnel to Afghanistan, including to a Provincial Reconstruction Team as we have.

New Zealand and Norway have worked together on climate change issues. We both acknowledge that human beings have put great pressure on our planet – and that it is our duty to future generations to do what we can to put that right.

While Norway is far away from Antarctica, it has a long history in the continent from the earliest days of exploration. Its commitment to robust environmental standards there make it a natural partner for New Zealand.

Given that both our countries are small, and we are geographically far apart, it is hardly surprising that our trade relationship with Norway is modest. In the year to December 2004, Norway was 81st on New Zealand’s list of trading partners. We sold Norway mainly apples, sheepmeat, and beef. Norway’s main exports to us were trucks and vans, fertilisers, and electrical apparatus.

From the WTO Doha round, New Zealand’s agricultural exporters expect to gain better access to the world markets. But there may well be scope for us to strengthen the economic relationship between our two countries now. Our venison industry, for example, would like to work with Norway’s to grow the market there. And Norway’s Norska Skǿg already has a big investment in our forestry industry.

One area where contact between us is set to grow is in exchanges of young people. This morning we signed a Working Holiday Scheme which will allow our young people to work and travel in each other’s countries for a twelve month period. There will be no limit on the numbers which can participate. New Zealand’s Working Holiday Schemes are very popular in Europe, and we expect Norway to be no exception.

We are aware too of Norway’s policy of encouraging students to do part of their course of study in another country. When Norway’s Education Minister visited New Zealand last year, we were able to discuss with her what our country can offer international students, and we would be pleased to host more from Norway.

Prime Minister, you have travelled a long way to be with us and to see and hear for yourself how much in common this small country has with yours. We very much value the opportunity to exchange views with you and your ministers here, in Norway, and in many other forums. We hope that your visit will open up new opportunities to take the relationship forward.

Prime Minister, as you know I have discovered that Norway’s mountains are a wonderful place for a winter holiday. You will find much about New Zealand’s mountains and fjords which reminds you of Norway, and we will welcome you here on holiday any time.

Ladies and gentlemen, can I now ask you to rise for a toast to His Majesty King Harald of Norway, and to the government and people of Norway.

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