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Helen Clark Address - Official Luncheon Bahrain PM

Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at
Official Luncheon in Honour of
Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa,
Prime Minister of Bahrain

Grand Hall, Parliament
Wellington

1.45 pm


Tuesday, 29 March 2005

Your Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain.

Deputy Prime Minister, His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed Bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa.

Ministers.

Distinguished guests.

Ladies and gentlemen.

It is with much pleasure that I welcome to New Zealand your Highness, your Advisers and ministerial colleagues, and other members of your very distinguished delegation from Bahrain.

Prime Minister, your last visit to New Zealand was twenty-nine years ago. Our country has changed a great deal in that time and we are pleased that you have come with your ministers and officials to see it for yourself.

It is also a great pleasure to return the outstanding hospitality you showed me and other Heads of Government from the South Pacific when we visited Bahrain after the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in December 2003.

When you came here in 1976, you had been Prime Minister of your country for five years. Now you come having served as Prime Minister of your country for thirty-four years. We congratulate you on your long service and on the progress Bahrain has made under your leadership in many areas.

New Zealand’s warm relationship with Bahrain is our longest established with any Gulf state. In formal diplomatic terms our relations were established in the 1970s, but our links go back to the 1930s when Major Frank Holmes, a New Zealander, helped to discover oil in Bahrain. In 2003 Major Holmes was inducted into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame for his work in Bahrain.

While New Zealand is a very long way from the Middle East, we do take a great interest in its affairs. We have a strong interest in the security, stability, and prosperity of the Gulf region.

Over the years we have come to appreciate the role which Bahrain has played as a force for stability in the region.

Bahrain's development as a constitutional monarchy with an elected Chamber of Deputies also marks your country out as a leader. We note that Bahrain has its first woman Cabinet Minister and that women have been appointed to the Consultative Council of the Chamber of Deputies.

Over the past couple of years, Bahrain has provided important support to the Royal New Zealand Navy frigates which have been in the Gulf as part of the international interdiction force against terrorism. This continues a history of New Zealand military engagement in the Middle East, from the time of the two World Wars through to our continuing involvement in the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai, the United Nations Truce Supervision Organisation in Israel and Syria, in various deployments within Afghanistan, and in the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq.

Your visit here, Prime Minister, has enabled us to talk in detail about developments in your region, and we value the knowledge and the insights which you have shared with us.

Bahrain is also a valued and longstanding trade partner of New Zealand. In the 1970s our two countries worked together to establish a joint venture cool store in Bahrain so that supplies of meat to the Middle East could be received and stored prior to distribution to Gulf markets. While the ownership of the project later transferred to Bahrain, this venture shows that, from the outset of our relations, we have worked together for our mutual advantage.

This morning we have signed a formal Arrangement on Trade and Economic Co-operation. I hope the Arrangement will generate more interest in Bahrain as a market for New Zealand products and technology, and will encourage Bahrain’s interest in educational services and trade and investment opportunities in New Zealand.

It is particularly pleasing to see the increase in Bahraini and Gulf investment in New Zealand. This has largely been the work of one New Zealand company - Intellectual Capital Partners Limited (I-CAP).

I-CAP has established a $100 million Islamic fund. To date the fund has invested in four New Zealand companies: Woosh Wireless Ltd (wireless broadband), Radius Health Group (private sector provision of integrated healthcare), Canterbury Clothing (one of our oldest clothing companies noted for its outdoor and sports wear) and NextWindow (touchscreen technology).

That New Zealand is a now an attractive investment partner for Bahrain reflects the many changes which have taken place here since Your Highness last visited New Zealand in 1976.

New Zealand is working very hard to strengthen its economy. Our focus on innovation, skills, and productivity are critical to our transformation, as is our open trading economy. We hope that investment from the Gulf will play an even bigger role in our future success – again to our mutual advantage.

It has also been pleasing to see the growth in contact between our education systems.

Our Education Minister brought a delegation to Bahrain in 2003, and he will return again next month. The Bahrain Training Institute has been to New Zealand to look at possible co-operation in vocational training. New Zealand universities and polytechnics have been establishing relationships with Bahrain. A flow of students between our countries will help cement our friendship for the future.

Indeed New Zealand's visa waiver arrangements for visitors from Bahrain makes us an open and welcoming place for your people to visit.

My government believes that it is very important for Western countries like ours to build relationships with countries in the Islamic world, in the interests of building a more peaceful and stable world for us all. We particularly value our friendship with Bahrain because it is a voice for progress and moderation.

Prime Minister, once again, welcome to New Zealand and thank you for your visit. You and your delegation are among friends here, and New Zealand looks forward to continuing its warm relationship with Bahrain in the years ahead.

ENDS

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