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PM Speech To Launch Latin America Strategy

Prime Minister Helen Clark
Speech To Launch Latin America Strategy

Thank you for responding to our invitation to attend this launch of the government's strategy for the development of relations with Latin America.

I wish to acknowledge especially the presence of the Ambassadors of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru and of business leaders, academic, science and education providers, and representatives of key agencies with a Latin America interest.

Thank you also to the Latin America Business Council, the Exporters' Institute and Auckland University for assisting so willingly with arrangements for the launch today.

I also thank the many people from the private sector and from government agencies who willingly gave their time during the consultation process on this strategy.

Earlier this year I received an invitation to attend the inauguration ceremony for President Lagos in Chile. I pondered it carefully. Travelling to Chile and back for a three day visit is backbreaking. But it seemed to me that the invitation opened up major opportunities to meet with Latin American leaders early on in the term of our new government, and to begin a new and more active phase in New Zealand's relations with the region.

Needless to say I was also keen to show support for the smooth transition to a new government in Chile and to support the consolidation of Chile's democracy. The significance of the installation of Chile's first centre left President since the assassination of President Allende was not lost on me either !

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Latin America has long held a fascination for me personally. Its southern tip has geographical similarities with our South Island fjords, alps, and plains. Its literature and its films are compelling, and its cultural life is lively. Its history has large elements of tragedy, in both colonial and more modern times. From all that has emerged a strong region with a sense of purpose and identity which makes a huge impact internationally. There is every reason in the world why New Zealand should want to interact more with this vast region.

Democratic progress over the past few years in Latin America has been impressive. The recent election in Mexico, ending 71 years in government by the ruling party, was further evidence of power changing hands by democratic means. The vast majority of countries in Latin America now enjoy democratic governance.

In Santiago I was able to meet with Latin American leaders and to seek a response from them to the idea of an active programme to rejuvenate and expand New Zealand's relations with Latin America. The Presidents of Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, and the Mexican Foreign Minister all responded very positively to my proposal that New Zealand put in place a new strategy.

The economic outlook of Latin American countries has changed markedly since the 1970s. Their economies, like ours, have been opened up to the rigours of international trade and competition: inflation has largely been brought under control: and the economic outlook for the region is encouraging.

Our interest in the region is based on the enormous opportunities that it holds for New Zealanders in many fields and on the many interests we have in common.

Clearly the size of the Latin American economy alone offers huge opportunities to
New Zealand. Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru together spend more than NZ$480 billion a year on imports. The Mercosur group of countries alone has a GDP in excess of NZ$2 trillion and a population of 200 million people.

The Latin economies have become more competitive in the global marketplace. In turn their sustainable level of consumption has risen, providing significant economic opportunities for traders and service providers like New Zealand.
Most Latin American countries, and particularly Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru, are looking west to the Asia Pacific for new opportunities. That presents us with an opportunity. We have already found that we have a lot in common in the way we view the big international issues. We could be characterised as 'New World' partners.
This new strategy is premised on the assumption that quality foreign relationships have to be multi-dimensional. It is difficult to have a good economic and trade relationship, for example, if other elements of our interaction are not active and healthy. Critical to our new strategy towards Latin America is our desire to broaden and deepen our relationships to include cultural, arts, music and sports activities, as well as academic and scientific co-operation, other people-to-people links, and a reinforcement of our wide-ranging diplomatic relationships.
Anyone visiting Latin America cannot help but be impressed by the vitality of the cultures found there. More links between our peoples will serve both to strengthen New Zealand's sense of identity, and to promote greater understanding with Latin America.
New Zealand's businesspeople, educationalists, scientists, artists, students, travellers, musicians, and sportspeople all have a great deal to gain from increased contact between our country and Latin America.
We also have a great deal to offer Latin America in terms of business investment, technology, education, culture and the arts, and in sharing ideas about indigenous people's issues. We believe Latin America needs to know more about us.
Coming to the conclusion, therefore, that New Zealand needed a fresh approach to relations with Latin America was not difficult. The surprise is that it has taken so long for government to give this relationship the priority it deserves. Neither we nor our Latin American colleagues have yet maximised the collective potential of working more closely together. Now that we are determined to do that, our governmental efforts can reinforce the already considerable efforts being made by our traders, education institutions, scientists, and others.
The Strategy
The strategy we are promoting for the development of New Zealand’s relations with Latin America aims to strengthen and broaden relations across three broad areas: international and regional co-operation: the economic and trade links, and people to people contact.
The underlying assumption is that New Zealand must project itself to the world in a more rounded way. While trade is vital to us, the development of our relationships with others needs to be more broadly based than it has normally been. We want and need to relate to the people and the institutions of Latin America in a way which reflects the people we are. So we have broadened the agenda, as indeed we must do with other regions in future.
To do this New Zealand must act together as New Zealand Incorporated with business, government, educators, scientists, travellers, students, OE seekers, the private sector, and the arts, culture, and sports aiding and abetting each other. That is why this announcement today was preceded by lengthy and detailed consultation with the community and government agencies.
Our trade and economic objectives for the relationship will be promoted alongside the development of additional, mutually supporting linkages. Among those linkages will be those between indigenous peoples. There are unique connections to be made.
In developing the strategy we are taking a long term view. Building relationships takes time. The strategy must be sustainable in the long term, and it can only be so if all sectors are prepared to dedicate time, energy and resources to it.

International and Regional Co-operation

In line with the strategy we will be stepping up our co-operation with Latin American nations on international and regional issues. On disarmament we value our dialogue with Brazil and Mexico. Both are partners with us in the New Agenda Coalition on disarmament issues. On environmental initiatives we will work to advance our shared interests in the Southern Ocean and on issues concerning the conservation of whales and albatrosses, the protection of the toothfish, the ozone, and the reaching of climate change objectives.
We will step up dialogue on these issues in our capital cities, and seek to increase the level of ministerial and official dialogue and visits. While in Santiago in March, I invited a number of leaders to visit New Zealand and we hope they will be able to come in due course. We have also invited Argentina's Minister of Agriculture, and I understand he plans to be here in November. We hope also to see the Brazilian Agriculture Minister here before long too.
A key element in being able to keep in close touch is to ensure that our representation in the region reflects our interests. As one of the first steps in increasing our foreign policy engagement, the government has approved the establishment of a New Zealand Embassy in Brasilia from next year. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs team departs on Saturday for Brasilia to begin the process of setting up the embassy, and we will have people on the ground there before the middle of next year. I expect to open the embassy officially in the second half of next year and to lead a trade mission to Latin America at that time.
Diplomatic activity in a number of Latin American countries where we do not have embassies, but where embassies are accredited, will be stepped up. We will also be reviewing accreditations to other emerging economies, especially in Central America, and possibly including Cuba, El Salvador, and Panama.

Trade and Economic Issues

We aim to lift the current level of engagement and progress with Latin America on trade and economic issues. On bilateral issues we will continue to protect and enhance access to Latin American markets. We want to build strong reciprocal relationships which will able us to resolve quickly any difficulties which arise about access for particular products, or on quarantine matters.
We have tagged $100,000 of the Trade Access Support Programme to help improve access to Latin American markets. And we want more reciprocal investment. The value of more outward missions to Latin America for export trade promotion, tourism and education will be explored.
In the budget this year we have funded through TradeNZ a special programme of $3.8m to promote New Zealand education overseas. A good proportion of that will be spent in Latin America.
We will seek to strengthen the framework of agreements under which economic activity takes place, such as on double taxation, visa waivers, and quarantine, in order to facilitate investment, trade and tourism. Other activities will help put New Zealand business people in direct contact with their Latin American counterparts.
Our trade promotion effort in Latin America will be enhanced through closer co-operation between government agencies in projecting New Zealand’s interests overseas. The first place to get a New Zealand Incorporated approach working is within government itself !
There will also be enhanced co-operation in regional and multilateral trade organisations. We will continue to work with Latin American countries in the World Trade Organisation, especially through the Cairns Group, and with Mexico, Peru, and Chile within APEC.

We will also continue to seek to engage Chile in discussion on a Closer Economic Partnership with New Zealand and Singapore.

People-to-People Links

We are very keen to build up people-to-people links. Our aim here is to increase understanding and awareness at the individual and institutional levels and to build up interest in areas including science, the arts, culture, academia, and education. I acknowledge here the efforts our universities have gone to to build such links.
The government recently increased the overall number of places under the Working Holiday Scheme from 10,000 to 20,000 per annum. Latin America is being allocated a significant part of the increase, to interest their young people in travelling to and finding out more about New Zealand. In return we would like to see reciprocal agreements which open up temporary work opportunities for young New Zealanders in Latin America
Expanding our network of Visa Waiver Agreements in the region will also facilitate tourism, business, and other contacts.
The strategy is being supported by a $150,000 fund to increase people to people links. The fund will be used to boost New Zealand’s profile by assisting with visits and exchanges of people in the media, arts and culture, science and education, and sports.
As part of the strategy we will increase the funding available for scholarships this year to $1.3m. That money is available to bring students from Latin America to our universities and polytechnics. The amount will be sharply increased again to a planned $3 million in 2002/03.
The money available for Short Term Training, and for the small project funds managed by our heads of mission overseas, will also be increased.
A Latin America Technical Co-operation Fund will be established with $80,000 budgeted for this year, rising to $330,000 in 2002/03.
A Latin America Development Assistance Facility will also be established with $300,000 this year, rising to $1.3m in 2002/03. This will enable the New Zealand private sector to work closely with the Government to support capacity building, project development and investment, and to help partners, organisations and communities in Latin America achieve sustainable economic and social progress.
This initial three year strategic effort aims to consolidate and expand on the relationship New Zealand and key Latin American countries have established in the past. We are doing more spadework to get the foundations right.
Government agencies are now taking account of the priority the government is placing on relations with Latin America. We believe that education, business, scientific and other sectors will also want to leverage new relationships from the government's determination to raise New Zealand's profile in Latin America.
We will work very closely with our Latin American colleagues, to identify where our joint efforts can be co-ordinated.
We can anticipate over time an increase in trade, tourism, investment, in students studying Spanish, and Portuguese, in Latin American students in our schools and tertiary institutions, in scientific and academic collaboration, and in international and regional co-ordination and co-operation.
This is a new and exciting chapter in New Zealand/Latin American relations for which I hope you will share our enthusiasm.

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