Trade Minister Welcomes Saudi Visit

  • Dr Lockwood Smith

This week 's visit by Saudi Commerce Minister Osama Faqeeh presents a great opportunity for New Zealand to strengthen economic links with a major Middle Eastern power, Trade Minister Lockwood Smith said today.

Dr Smith said it was very much in New Zealand's interests to build closer bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia, and he was delighted that Dr Faqeeh and a 28-strong delegation of senior trade representatives were making a dedicated trip here.

"I am honoured that he will be bringing with him such an impressive line-up of senior Saudi businessmen. Few New Zealanders are doing business with Saudi Arabia, even though it is a major regional power, and our most important economic partner in the Middle East," Dr Smith said.

"Hopefully this visit will give new impetus to the economic relationship, by demonstrating the diversification of our export trade and the breadth of investment and tourism opportunities here."

Saudi Arabia is New Zealand's 16th biggest trading partner, with total trade standing at $565 million for the June 1998 year. New Zealand exports for the same period totalled $186 million, mainly milk powder and sheep meat, while crude and refined oil products are the overwhelming imports.

During the four-day visit, which begins today, Dr Faqeeh and his delegation will visit a range of Auckland industries, a bloodstock farm in the Waikato, a Saudi-owned sheep farm in Hawke's Bay, and a food processing plant in Christchurch.

Dr Faqeeh will also meet the Prime Minister, several Cabinet Ministers, senior Producer Board figures, and attend Chamber of Commerce functions. While in Christchurch the delegation will make a brief visit to the mosque, arguably one of the furthest from Mecca.