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Prime Minister to Chile, Philippines

6 March 2006

Prime Minister to Chile, Philippines

Prime Minister Helen Clark will travel to Chile at the end of this week for the inauguration of President-elect Michele Bachelet, and then on to the Philippines for the Asia-Pacific Regional Interfaith Dialogue in Cebu and an official bilateral visit.

While in Chile, Helen Clark will attend the farewell ceremony for outgoing President Ricardo Lagos, and will meet with members of the new government, the Chilean business community, and other leaders attending the inauguration.

Helen Clark said New Zealand had a strong relationship with Chile, and visits in recent years by Heads of State and Government in both directions had built on it.

"Chile and New Zealand signed the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement with Singapore and Brunei in 2005. The Agreement provides a framework to improve our economic fortunes through science, research, and commercial partnerships.

"This visit is timely as last week Cabinet agreed to continue the government’s Latin America Strategy, launched in 2000, which aims to build New Zealand’s relationship in the region in three main areas: diplomatic; economic; and people-to-people contacts," Helen Clark said.

Helen Clark will visit the Philippines to speak at the Regional Interfaith Dialogue meeting, and said recent events had reinforced the importance of building support between faiths and religious communities.

“Interfaith dialogue is proving to be an effective channel for the voices of religious moderation within the region,’’ Helen Clark said.

“The Cebu meeting will be a key part of this important regional inter-faith process which aims to promote peace and security in the region.”

The Cebu Interfaith Dialogue meeting will bring together delegations of up to ten representatives of faith communities from countries within the regiona, including from ASEAN members, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand. New Zealand, along with the Philippines, Indonesia and Australia is a co-sponsor of the Cebu meeting.

Helen Clark will also make a series of official calls during her 13-15 March visit to the Philippines. The last dedicated bilateral visit from New Zealand to the Philippines was made by David Lange in 1986. Jim Bolger attended the APEC summit there in 1996.

“This year we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of New Zealand-Philippines bilateral relations. In 1966 New Zealand cross-accredited an Ambassador to Manila from Hong Kong. The Embassy in Manila opened in 1975. Our relationship has grown substantially in the past forty years with the Philippines now our top export market in South East Asia," Helen Clark said.

“This visit will also help develop dialogue with the Philippines on issues including counter-terrorism and New Zealand's relations with ASEAN. The Philippines takes the chair of ASEAN later this year and will be hosting the ASEAN and East Asia Summits in December.”

Helen Clark will leave New Zealand on 9 March and return on 17 March.

ENDS

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