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PM Address to mark launch of NZ/Thailand CEP

TUESDAY, 19 APRIL 2005

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address to
cocktail function to mark launch of New Zealand/Thailand CEP
at
Bangkok


6.40 pm Thailand (11.40pm NZ)

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

Thank you for joining us at this reception to celebrate today’s signing of the Thailand-New Zealand Closer Economic Partnership (CEP) agreement.

This is a truly historic day for Thailand-New Zealand relations. It also comes on the eve of fifty years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Thailand, which we will be celebrating next year.

Over those fifty years, we have slowly but steadily been building a network of trade and people-to-people links.

Two-way trade between New Zealand and Thailand is now worth over NZ$1 billion per year. That represents not just a lot of commercial transactions, but also many corporate and personal relationships between Thai and New Zealand business people, including between many who are here this evening.

Senior business people have joined Trade Minister Jim Sutton and me on this mission to Bangkok. Included in our delegation are

1. Henry van der Heyden - Chairman, Fonterra
2. Ross McKenzie - Managing Director, Old Fashioned Foods
3. Professor Ian Warrington - Vice Chancellor Massey University
4. Phil O'Reilly - Executive Director, Business NZ
5. Ian Morrice - CEO, The Warehouse
6. Janet Skilton - Executive Director, Horticulture Export Authority
7. Ron Czerniak - Director, NZ Marine Board
8. Francis Khoo - Director, QVsion
9. Shirley Ooi - Director, QVsion
10. David Brebner - Director, Unlimited Realities
11. George Hickton - CEO, Tourism NZ
12. Brian Hare - Managing Director, Pacific Aerospace

Visits by this business mission, like recent ones to New Zealand by Thailand’s Board of Investment and Department of Export Promotion, will help us identify new areas of potential collaboration, such as in ICT (Information & Communication Technology), specialised manufacturing (eg marine), and food and beverage.

This visit also allows us to update our perceptions of each other. Thais know New Zealand for its clean, green environment and good education system, and as a good place for a holiday. But we are much more than that – we have the skills, innovation and productivity to turn out the digital wizardry of the “Lord of the Rings”, zany apparel like the WOW costumes you see here tonight, and luxury super-yachts.

For our part, after this week’s visit our business people will leave with a better understanding of this country’s booming technological and industrial capacity, centred around Bangkok; and of Thailand’s increasingly skilled workforce. That will complement the more traditional images of Thailand’s historic and cultural heritage and the tranquillity of its beaches and rural landscape.

Sadly, last December, the tranquillity of Thailand was shattered by the Boxing Day tsunami.

New Zealand’s losses were keenly felt, although small compared to the thousands of Thai families who lost relatives and friends, or who are still searching for loved ones. Our hearts go out to them, and to the hundreds of thousands of families and friends across the world who are still grieving.

Our sympathy is coupled with admiration for the way Thailand has responded to the tragedy, and at the determination of Thai people to restore their homes, villages and livelihoods.

But, most of all, New Zealanders are filled with gratitude towards all those Thai people who helped the many foreigners affected by the disaster.

A New Zealand police forensic team has been working in Phuket since December, assisting the Thai police and the international Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) effort.

Some members of the New Zealand team, and their Thai police counterparts, are here tonight. I want publicly to thank them for the work they have done to bring solace and a sense of closure to many thousands of relatives and friends of the tsunami victims. Nothing could reflect more the solid history of friendship and co-operation between New Zealand and Thailand than the efforts of New Zealand police in Phuket and Khao Lak.

All the New Zealanders believed to be missing after the tsunami have now been identified, but the task of identifying Thais and people of other nationalities is far from over. We are continuing to work with Thailand in this very difficult task.

The CEP we signed today commits us to working to further our relations in the economic sphere. In addition to existing trade links, we have much to build on: We are both outward looking, democratic countries; we have growing economies; we have valuable education links; and we are both focused on upskilling our respective workforces.

Tonight – as well as celebrating the CEP – our guests have the opportunity to renew business contacts and make new ones. Tomorrow, at our seminar on “Doing Business With New Zealand”, we will have the chance to explore what the CEP offers and to update Thai participants on New Zealand’s trade and investment environment.

The new trade agreement is a catalyst. We can leverage off it to raise our respective profiles in each other’s country and to generate new forms of collaboration and partnership. My government will be working with business to help translate the opportunities opened up by the CEP into concrete outcomes which benefit both countries. But an agreement like this can only work with the active involvement of business and individuals such as those here tonight, with the creative energy you can bring to give it life.

Prime Minister Thaksin and I have both given strong support to this agreement. We share a vision of an Asia-Pacific region where countries can combine expertise, ideas, technology, and resource bases to compete more effectively in the wider international marketplace. We hope our citizens will make the most of the new opportunities opened up by the Closer Economic Partnership.

Thank you for being here tonight.

ENDS

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