Cablegate: New Zealand Participation at Apec High Level

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: USDA FAS 666920


1. Embassy's Agricultural Attach and Economic officer
discussed the draft workplan for the APEC High Level
Policy Dialogue on Agricultural Biotechnology (HLPDAB)
and ongoing capacity building initiatives on agricultural
biotechnology with David Walker and Richard Graves of the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Dr. Walker was
recently appointed as the New Zealand Government's Senior
APEC official. His office had shared information
provided on the agricultural policy dialogue reftel with
other New Zealand ministries. New Zealand's
participation in the Biotech Dialogue is likely to
continue at a modest level. This reflects both resource
constraints as well as policy considerations that take
into account the political sensitivity of agricultural
biotechnology within New Zealand.

2. Dr. Walker candidly stated that New Zealand's
'experts' on agricultural biotechnology have not in the
past placed a high priority on participating in the
HLPDAB. Based on their assessment and faced with
significant resource constraints, New Zealand's
participation in the APEC HLPDAB is not likely to change
significantly in the near-term from its modest level.

3. Agricultural Attach stressed to Dr. Walker the
importance that the United States places on New Zealand's
participation in the HLPDAB. The 3-year draft workplan
offered New Zealand an excellent opportunity to make sure
that it included initiatives and activities that
supported New Zealand's goals and objectives for
agricultural biotechnology. Dr. Walker agreed that New
Zealand shared responsibility for making sure that the
workplan was relevant for New Zealand. Dr. Walker was
reminded during the discussion that he had received a
copy of the workplan by email from Melissa Clarkson
representing the HLPDAB Steering Committee and he was
encouraged to provide comment directly to Clarkson by
email, taking into account that feedback was sought by
August 13.

4. Walker commented that New Zealand would like to obtain
clarification and a better understanding of the
definition and scope of agricultural biotechnology, as
envisioned for the HLPDAB versus other APEC bodies (or
international organizations such as Codex) providing
technology cooperation, so as to assure that there was no
duplication of effort. Also, New Zealand believes that
initiatives to enhance public understanding of
agricultural biotechnology should be a priority issue for
the HLPDAB. These concerns may be expressed by Walker in
an email exchange with Clarkson.

5. Agricultural Attach raised the subject of the farmer-
to-farmer capacity building initiative scheduled for
Honduras and the Investment Seminar that will be held in
Malaysia in December 2004. With respect to the Honduran
event, Dr. Walker commented that New Zealand placed
importance on the need for achieving wider public
understanding and acceptance of agricultural
biotechnology. He also questioned why the event was
being held in Honduras given that it is not an APEC

6. Agricultural Attach reminded Dr. Walker of the recent
trade Mission led by the Governor of Iowa to New Zealand
followed by a reverse mission organized by MFAT to Iowa
designed in part to promote investment in biotechnology.
With New Zealand's interest in promoting investment
opportunities for New Zealand's agricultural biotech
industry, Agricultural Attach raised the usefulness of
the investment seminar organized under the HLPDAB to
promote development of New Zealand's biotech sector.

7. Dr. Walker emphasized that timing of Policy Dialogue
meetings was an important factor in determining New
Zealand's participation. Dr. Walker will attend the
Senior Officials Meeting (SOM I) that will be held next
year in Korea. The 2005 Agricultural Biotechnology
Policy Dialogue meeting is expected to be scheduled on
the margins of SOM I. Richard Graves, MFAT's Senior
Policy Officer for APEC, pointed out that although Dr.
Walker will be in Korea, he may be unable to attend the
policy dialogue if it conflicts with preparatory events
being held for SOM I. Coordination of APEC meeting
schedules is critical to ensure New Zealand's
participation at HLPDAB meetings.

8. Attending the Biotech Policy Dialogue does pose
serious resource issues for New Zealand, both human and
financial. However, its participation is largely a
question of priorities and benefits. New Zealand will
continue to find it difficult to take a leadership role
in promoting the adoption of biotechnology issues within
APEC while its own domestic policy environment continues
to impede development of New Zealand's biotech sector.
That said, David Walker, New Zealand's newly appointed
Senior APEC Official, is likely to place a higher
priority and take a more active role in the Agricultural
Biotechnology Dialogue than his predecessor. Walker
attended the last HLPDAB meeting held in Chile while
still serving as Deputy Head of the New Zealand Embassy
in Washington.

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