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Travel to the United Kingdom, Switzerland



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M EDIA RELEASE JM+ MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA7 27 January 1998

TRAVEL TO THE UNITED KINGDOM, SWITZERLAND, IRELAND, PAKISTAN AND BANGLADESH

I will be travelling to the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Ireland, Pakistan and Bangladesh from 28 January to 12 February.

From 28 to 30 January, I will be in London. On 29 January, I will hold consultations with the Foreign Secretary, Mr Robin Cook, who will represent the Presidency of the European Union (EU), which is held by the United Kingdom (UK) in the first half of 1998. Australia has held biannual Ministerial level consultations with the EU’s rotating Presidency since 1990. These consultations provide a valuable opportunity, early in the British Presidency, for a high level dialogue on a wide range of issues of mutual interest and concern.

An important subject for discussion will be the efforts of both sides to put flesh on the bones of the Australia/EU Joint Declaration signed last year. Cooperative bilateral activities are in prospect in a number of areas, such as science and technology and industrial cooperation. The trade relationship, the current economic problems in Asia, cooperation in the United Nations (UN) and prospects for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will be other major areas for discussion.

In my meetings with other British Ministers, I will raise Australian concerns about restricted access to the British market for Australian beef and the continuing unwillingness of the UK government to agree to introduce indexation for UK pensions to Australian residents. I will also discuss a number of issues of mutual interest, including regional political and economic developments, the G8 meeting and Security Council reform.

On 28 January, I will address a business leaders gathering on the implications of the economic situation in East Asia, emphasising the sound long-term prospects for the region and the advantages of Australia as a trade and investment partner.

From 30 January to 3 February, I will visit Davos and Geneva in Switzerland. In Davos, I will address the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting, which is one of the premier events on international business and government calendars. The Geneva-based WEF is a private, not-for-profit organisation which draws its membership from the world’s leading corporations. The annual Davos meeting is centred on the WEF’s key aim of encouraging global economic development by providing its members with high-level networking opportunities and strategic information. The 1998 Summit will draw together more than 1000 leaders from government, business, academia, the sciences and the media.

Media releases and sp eech es are available from DFAT via the internet, http://www.dfat.qov.au/

In Geneva, I will attend the Conference on Disarmament (CD), for the second time as Foreign Minister. My level of interest is testimony to the importance Australia accords this institution and its contribution to building a more secure world. The CD iS the international community’s leading arms control negotiating forum. It has a proven track record in negotiating effective, verifiable global disarmament and non-proliferation treaties which have helped to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction, including in Australia’s area of primary strategic concern. The continued strength of the CD is vital to Australia’s national security interest. I will also be seeking first-hand briefings from Australia’s negotiators in the process of building a verification regime for the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) of 1972.

From 3 to 5 February I will visit Ireland, where I will meet the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, sign a film co-production agreement and hand over Australia’s 1998 contribution to the International Fund for Ireland. The main purpose of my visit is to advance Australia’s interests through strengthened bilateral linkages, including encouraging Ireland to adopt a more forthcoming position on Common Agricultural Policy reform and international trade liberalisation.

My visit to Pakistan from 6 to 10 February will build on the momentum of the Government’s 1997 Year of South Asia initiative, which has seen a significant increase in the level of Australia’s engagement with the countries of South Asia.

I will hold talks with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister and other senior Ministers; sign two bilateral agreements on air services and investment promotion and protection; formally open the new Australian High Commission Chancery building in Islamabad; inaugurate the new Australian Consulate in Karachi, headed by an Honorary Consul; launch the Australia Pakistan Business Forum in Karachi; and visit Peshawar, where I will observe a UN de-mining demonstration and meet Australians involved in Non-Government Organisation humanitarian activities in Afghanistan.

My visit coincides with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and Pakistan. My discussions will reflect the growing substance in bilateral relations, where the commercial relationship is becoming an increasingly important element. Australian exports to Pakistan now approach $400 million annually and the future promises the development of a range of investment opportunities for Australian companies.

My visit to Bangladesh from 10 to 11 February, marks the first by an Australian Foreign Minister since 1990. I will meet the President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and other senior representatives of the Government and Opposition. My talks will focus on bilateral relations, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest, and the ongoing economic, political and administrative reform process in Bangladesh. Discussions will also centre on commercial links, which are rapidly gaining substance, with exports to Bangladesh now exceed $260 million annually.

CANBERRA

For further information contact: Innes Willox on 02 6277 7500