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Visit to New Zealand.

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At the invitation of Prime Minister Helen Clark, I will visit New Zealand from 19 to 21 February for annual trans-Tasman Prime Ministerial talks.

These talks are but one indication of the close shared ties between our two nations, forged through history, culture and a mutual commitment to upholding common values. These ties have especially significant resonance this year, as we mark the 90th anniversary of the original ANZAC day landings on the shores of Gallipoli.

Australia and New Zealand cooperate closely on a wide range of regional and international issues, especially our joint pursuit of agricultural trade liberalisation through the Cairns Group and our shared commitment to our Pacific island neighbours. We will also be working together to negotiate an ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, following Miss Clark’s and my successful visit to Vientiane last November.

New Zealand remains one of Australia’s most enduring and significant trading partners, and in this the 22nd year of the Closer Economic Relations agreement both nations are making solid progress towards realising our longer term ambition of a single economic market.

As well as bilateral talks with Miss Clark, I will meet a range of business leaders in Auckland on 20 February. My formal programme will also include talks with the New Zealand Cabinet and a wreath-laying ceremony at the New Zealand war memorial in Wellington.

14 February 2004