Address at State Luncheon for the PM of Turkey
Rt Hon Helen Clark
Address at State Luncheon for the Prime Minister of Turkey His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Monday 5 December 2005
It is my great pleasure to welcome the Prime Minister of Turkey, His Excellency Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mrs Erdogan, and his distinguished delegation of Ministers, MPs, officials, and business leaders from Turkey to Parliament today.
It is not often that we have the opportunity to reciprocate the outstanding hospitality which Turkey shows year after year to visiting New Zealand government ministers and officials, and to many thousands of our people who travel to Turkey as visitors.
Prime Minister Erdogan, you were my host this year at the ninetieth anniversary commemoration of ANZAC Day on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and also in Ankara, and I am very pleased now to host you in New Zealand so soon afterwards.
To most New Zealanders, the mere mention of Turkey evokes Gallipoli – and this is without doubt the key feature of our shared heritage. It is events around that peninsula which draw our people to Turkey year after year.
But I am also keen, as I know Prime Minister Erdogan, is to look forward in this relationship – and there is much to build on.
It’s now thirteen years since Turkey established its embassy in New Zealand, and New Zealand reciprocated by opening its embassy in Ankara in 1993.
We’ve established a Joint Economic and Trade Commission, and we have Friendship Groups in our respective parliaments and exchanges of parliamentary delegations. Many New Zealanders of all ages visit Turkey, especially around the annual anniversary commemorations at Gallipoli.
I believe that Turkey will be even more important to New Zealand in the future, especially as Turkey negotiates for entry to the European Union – and we do applaud the EU’s decision to open negotiations.
We know that Turkey has already made many changes to its legal framework to make negotiation possible, and we wish you a successful conclusion to the negotiation.
Turkey also has a great deal to contribute to stability and development in its region. Through our dialogue with Turkey, we come to know more about a part of the world, particularly in the neighbouring former Soviet Republics, with which we have little direct contact.
In turn we hope that our perspectives on the Asia Pacific region will be of interest to Turkey. We welcome Turkey’s increasing interest and profile in the Asia-Pacific. New Zealand is an active partner in the region through many regional organisations – and indeed next week will be seated at the table of the first ever East Asia Summit, to be held in Kuala Lumpur. Our region is dynamic and experiencing strong economic growth.
Trade between New Zealand and Turkey has never reached its potential. For us, Turkey’s high tariff barriers have limited the expansion of our traditional agricultural export trade in many fields – and we hope those barriers will lower in time.
Meanwhile there are opportunities for us to develop our trade in technology and services. New Zealand’s expertise in agricultural technology and services, and in earthquake engineering, are particularly relevant to Turkey.
Now, in order to improve the prospects for two-way investment, New Zealand is ready to begin negotiations on a double tax agreement with Turkey next year.
We also hope to interest more young people from Turkey in travelling to and studying in New Zealand. Earlier this year I proposed that we should negotiate a Working Holiday Agreement with Turkey. As well, New Zealand education institutions are participating in education fairs in Turkey, knowing that many young Turks travel abroad for education and believing that more may consider New Zealand if they knew what we have to offer.
During our talks today, the Prime Minister and I have talked about our common hopes for a lasting and comprehensive peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians; and for future stability of Iraq and Afghanistan. Both our countries are contributing to international forces in Afghanistan.
As well, both New Zealand and Turkey have been active in promoting increased dialogue across cultures and religious faiths, as a means of addressing tensions in today’s world. Turkey has been a key proponent of the Alliance of Civilisations launched recently by the United Nations, which aims to build greater understanding between faiths. New Zealand is engaged in regional interfaith dialogue initiatives in the Asia Pacific, and will co-sponsor the next Dialogue to be held in the Philippines in March.
Despite New Zealand’s small size, I believe we can play a role in bringing nations and cultures together, just as we seek to ensure that those of different ethnicities and faiths can live harmoniously in our country. In particular, we seek to ensure that tensions which have developed between the Western world and Muslim populations do not become a permanent divide preventing us living peacefully alongside each other.
Prime Minister, we are delighted to have you and your delegation visit New Zealand. We hope you will leave with new ideas about the potential for Turkey’s relationship with New Zealand, and continue to see our country as a close friend in the Asia Pacific – as we see Turkey in its region and, I hope, in the EU in the future.
Ladies and Gentlemen, can I now ask you to rise to a toast to the Government and people of the Republic of Turkey.