Encouraging closer ties with Latin America: Fletcher Tabuteau reflects on his recent visit to key states in western South America.

Author:Tabuteau, Fletcher
 
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The opening of the New Zealand embassy in Bogota, Colombia was a milestone event. It tightened New Zealand's links to Latin America's third most populous country and one of growing importance. Colombia is at the crossroads of Central and South America and is of geo-strategic importance as it increases its international engagement. Its economic growth and international profile have grown impressively in a very short period; and it is projected to become South America's second largest economy by 2020. But New Zealand's Latin America focus is not just on Colombia. It stretches far beyond any one country to regional economic integration and free trade architecture.

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The formal opening of New Zealand's newest embassy, in Bogota, Colombia, on 14 March unambiguously showed New Zealand's commitment to, and confidence in, Colombia. I welcomed more than 100 guests, including senior government representatives, those with New Zealand business interests as well as their Colombian partners, and ambassadors from Colombia's three Pacific Alliance partners--Chile, Mexico and Peru. We had a terrific launch event of the new embassy at the residence of Ambassador Lucy Duncan--our first resident head of mission in Colombia --and left no one in any doubt that New Zealand has arrived on the scene.

Importantly though, New Zealand's commitment and confidence is long term. Our permanent diplomatic presence in Bogota includes two New Zealand Trade and Enterprise business development managers: we have made a significant investment in supporting New Zealand and New Zealanders to succeed there.

So what will that investment look like? New Zealand has five aims in Colombia:

* First, we want to deepen political relations between our two countries. We have a positive relationship with the current government, and look forward to working with the new administration after this year's congressional and presidential elections.

* Second, we will continue to accompany Colombia as it transitions to peace. New Zealand was a strong supporter of the peace process during our term on the Security Council, and has contributed $1 million to support humanitarian de-mining.

* Third, we are keen to capitalise on Colombia's regional significance and leadership. Colombia is at the crossroads of Central and South America and is of geo-strategic importance as it increases its international engagement in this post-conflict period.

* Fourth, we will pursue export growth, particularly in...

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