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Seismic change for Foreign Affairs


Rt Hon Winston Peters
Minister of Foreign Affairs


Embargoed until 12.30pm, 16 April 2008
Media statement

Peters announces seismic change for Foreign Affairs

New posts and a major increase in overseas staff will result from a major funding injection for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade announced by Foreign Minister Winston Peters today.

As part of Budget 2008, the government has committed $523 million in operational funding and a capital injection of $98 million over the next five years, Mr Peters said in a speech to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs in Wellington.

“New Zealand has struggled to manage the demands it faces off-shore for too long,” Mr Peters said.

“The international agenda is becoming increasingly crowded, complex and competitive, and small countries like New Zealand risk having their interests pushed aside unless they are able to make themselves heard.

“Today’s announcement is a seismic change in direction from the previous incremental tinkering with the management of our international representation.

“It will allow the Foreign Affairs to take a major step up in promoting our foreign policy and trade interests; to better lead the ‘NZ Inc’ effort overseas, and to improve its ability to help New Zealanders in trouble.”

Mr Peters said the key outcomes of the funding increase are:

* The number of diplomats and support staff overseas will increase by more than 100 over the next five years – a lift of over 50 percent.

* A boost to staff levels in Wellington to lift capacity in high-priority areas such as Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, trade, and environment.

* New posts will open this year in Stockholm and Brisbane, with a diplomatic presence added to the trade work of the Consulate-General in Melbourne.

* Posts in Asia will get extra staff and resources to work more effectively with regional groupings such as ASEAN and the East Asia Summit.

* An increase in trade policy capacity, both overseas and in Wellington, to push towards trade negotiations with key markets such as Korea, Japan, the United States, India and Mexico.

* Posts in troubled Pacific countries will be reinforced, as will resources for those working on the relevant country desks in Wellington.

* The embassy in Tehran will be strengthened to allow a greater level of engagement with Pakistan and Afghanistan.

* Staff at several two-person overseas posts will be increased.

* The Pacific Security Fund and Asia Security Fund will increase to build regional capacity to combat terrorism and other trans-national threats.

“New Zealand has a well-deserved international reputation as a small but active, independent and decent country. We need to guard that reputation jealously, and ensure that it is continually renewed in the years ahead.

“To do that, our foreign service must be able to meet the increasing challenges we face internationally. The seismic change announced today sets the platform for that to happen,” Mr Peters said.

ENDS

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