Address to official luncheon with Spanish PM

  • Helen Clark
Prime Minister

It is a pleasure for me to make this official visit to Spain – only the second by a New Zealand Prime Minister.

Fifteen years ago it was the amazing World Expo in Seville which brought Prime Minister Jim Bolger here. On that occasion he performed the official opening of the then newly established New Zealand Embassy in Madrid.

Now, in 2007, it is Spain’s hosting of yachting’s premier challenge, the America’s Cup, in Valencia, which brings me here, to support New Zealand’s team and to promote governmental, economic, cultural, and people to people links with Spain.

This is not my first visit to Spain – far from it! I passed through en route to Portugal by train in 1976, stopping only to change trains because of the discouragement of travel to Spain by social democratic parties at that time. Spain at that time had yet to undergo its democratic transition.

It was therefore a joy to return in January 1992 to spend a month in Madrid at a language school, and to travel widely to outstanding heritage cities, like Salamanca, Toledo, and Segovia.

Later that year I too came to Seville for the Expo and travelled in Andalucia, and the mid nineties saw me back in Madrid for a conference.

Spain, with its dramatic landscapes, history, and cultural heritage has long held a fascination for me.

Now as Prime Minister of New Zealand, I am keen to see our modern nations get to know each other better – and there is every reason to do so.

I see Spain and New Zealand as members of a community of shared values, with our common commitments to democracy and human rights.

On so many issues, our nations are likeminded; for example on the importance of multilateralism, of counterterrorism and counter proliferation, and of sustainability -including on whale conservation, an issue very dear to New Zealanders.

Spain, like New Zealand, places great importance on working to build strong relations between nations across cultural and faith boundaries.

We applaud Spain, together with Turkey, co-sponsoring the Alliance of Civilisations initiative at the United Nations. That has led to an important report on how to overcome the distressing polarisation we have seen between the Western and Islamic worlds. The New Zealand Government was pleased to join the Group of Friends of the initiative convened by Spain’s permanent mission in New York.

New Zealand is hosting the first symposium on the Alliance of Civilisations’ report in the Asia-Pacific region next month. It will be followed by a meeting in our country of the regional interfaith dialogue which brings together multi-faith delegations from South East Asian and South Pacific nations.

The Asia Pacific region is at the intersection of many of the world’s great faiths. Peace and security in our region, as throughout the world, are dependent on us breaking down the artificial barriers we human beings have built between ourselves, so that we can celebrate our common humanity.

Just as it was Spain’s integration into the European Union which led New Zealand to establish its embassy here over fifteen years ago, so I believe that New Zealand’s close involvement in the affairs of the Asia Pacific make us of much greater interest to Spain at this time.

Spain’s Asia Action Plan has seen it greatly expand its presence in our region, and New Zealand is delighted that a Spanish Embassy has been established in our country for the first time.

I hope that Spain will regard New Zealand as a close friend and partner in the Asia Pacific. We are well integrated in the region’s institutions as members of APEC, the new East Asia Summit, the Pacific Islands’ Forum, and as a dialogue partner of ASEAN for more than thirty years.

Spain may also see economic opportunities in the region associated with relations with New Zealand. We have a web of free trade agreements in the Asia Pacific – across Australia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and Chile. We are currently negotiating FTAs with China, Malaysia, and all of ASEAN.

Certainly our trade relationship with Spain could be enlivened - the two way trade is well balanced, but it has been static for several years.

New Zealand has significant innovation in its primary sectors, as well as exciting new biotechnology, ICT, and creative sectors. Tourism, international education, marine industries, and niche manufacturing are important to us, as is increased investment in science and research, and the commercialisation of our innovations.

I believe that our two economies share more sectors and challenges in common than is generally realized. New Zealand is taking the opportunity of our flagship yachting team being based in Valencia for the America’s Cup to promote the synergies and opportunities more.

In the run up to my visit, our officials have been working on new government to government agreements.

Our Double Taxation Agreement was ratified recently, and a Dependants’ Employment Agreement enabling diplomats’ spouses and other close family members to work in each other’s countries has been signed today.

We have also completed negotiations on a Film Co-Production Treaty. We are pleased to learn that it may be possible to move to complete negotiations on a bilateral Working Holiday Scheme for young people soon.

It is my desire that 2007 becomes a year when relations between Spain and New Zealand reach a new level. My visit here, the strong New Zealand presence in Valencia, and Spain’s new embassy in New Zealand and increased presence in the Asia-Pacific all make that possible.

It is now my pleasure to propose a toast, to the King, and to the Government and people of Spain.