Clark: Luncheon in Honour of President Chile
Embargoed until 2.00 pm
Tuesday 21 November 2006
Rt Hon Helen Clark
State Luncheon in Honour of
The President of the Republic of Chile
Her Excellency Michelle Bachelet
Tuesday 21 November 2006
It is a genuine pleasure to welcome Her Excellency, President Michelle Bachelet, to New Zealand.
I am delighted that the President has been able to take up the invitation to visit New Zealand so early in her term of office, which began in March this year.
It was a pleasure for me to attend President Bachelet's inauguration in Santiago, and to express at that time the New Zealand Government's desire to continue its strong working relationship with Chile across many fields.
President Bachelet is the first woman to be elected as President of Chile. This is a major milestone in Chile's political and social history.
The President and her family suffered grievously during the period of the dictatorship in Chile. Now as President and as Commander in Chief of Chile's Armed Forces, Michelle Bachelet personally represents the triumph of liberty over repression, and of democracy and human rights over authoritarianism. New Zealanders salute your achievements, Madam President, and those of the succession of democratic, Concertación governments which have ruled since 1990 and restored the proud democratic traditions of your country.
Since the restoration of civilian rule, Chile’s governments have sought to use economic growth to improve the social conditions of Chileans. Chile's economy has experienced good growth for a sustained period.
Making the economic pie bigger, and making sure that the gains from growth are widely shared are objectives dear to most New Zealanders too, and certainly to our government.
New Zealand and Chile also share a vision for growth based on innovation and upskilling, and being outward looking. We know that New Zealand's economic model is of interest to Chile because our first world economy has large, successful, and productive primary sectors.
New Zealand's relationship with Chile is our oldest and deepest in Latin America. Since 2000, it has been underpinned by the proactive Latin American Strategy which aims to promote governmental, economic, and people to people links with key nations in the region.
Early in 2000 when I visited Chile for the inauguration of President Ricardo Lagos, we spoke of the possibility of a strategic economic partnership agreement spanning the Pacific, from Singapore to Chile and New Zealand.
The vision always was for such an agreement to be a catalyst for invigorating our relationship – and so it has proved to be.
The agreement, which now includes Brunei as well, came fully into force on 8 November. President Bachelet and I met with the Prime Minister of Singapore and the Sultan of Brunei at the weekend to celebrate this agreement and plan for the future.
Our Trans Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership not only frees up and promotes trade; it also encourages deeper economic co-operation through partnerships in business, research, and innovation. It includes provisions for dialogue on environment and labour policies.
Today New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and CORFO – Chile’s economic development agency – have signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing their agencies to promote and facilitate commercial partnerships between New Zealand and Chile.
This picks up on the significant interest expressed by New Zealand and Chilean businesses in partnering with one another.
Right now there is a substantial CORFO-led business delegation in New Zealand, reciprocating the visit by the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise-led business mission to Chile in June. That in turn followed a New Zealand agri-tech mission to Chile in May. Indeed it is becoming hard to keep up with the many business, education, science, and cultural visits between New Zealand and Chile these days !
Both our countries have identified education as an area of high growth potential between us.
That potential includes English-language training for more Chileans in New Zealand, young New Zealanders teaching English in Chile, post-graduate research in fields of common interest, and sharing of policy expertise – including in early childhood education and education for indigenous peoples.
Next year, a new position of Education Counsellor is being established in our embassy in Santiago to support the development of this fast growing education relationship.
Another aspect of our links which has taken off is the Working Holiday Scheme, which was signed in 2001.
As fast as New Zealand has opened up places, they have been quickly filled by young Chileans. Our original allocation of 200 places in New Zealand was increased to 400 in 2004, and 500 in 2005. When applications opened again on 1 October, all 500 places for the coming year were snapped up in the first three weeks.
Our government has now decided to increase the places for young Chileans to 1000 per year, effective from 1 October. We believe that through this scheme young people develop a life long affection for each other's countries, and that is to the mutual benefit of us both.
It's impossible in a short speech to do justice to the many agreements, partnerships, and links we have with Chile. Suffice it to say that with the goodwill of both governments, the relationship has been transformed to one of real depth and substance, and it will continue to grow.
The same is true of our work together internationally, where we collaborate closely with Chile in many fora. President Bachelet and I have just been together at the APEC Summit. Our ministers and officials work closely together at the United Nations, in the World Trade Organisation, and in international discussions relating to the environmental, fisheries, and Antarctic matters. We count Chile as like-minded on many, many issues.
Madam President, this early visit will give you a taste of New Zealand, and we hope a desire to return again.
I now propose a toast to Her Excellency the President of Chile, and to the strong partnership between Chile and New Zealand.