The Kiwi Prime Minister, John Key, has made a flying visit to Morocco - the first New Zealand PM to do so in decades
|Executive Committee of the International Democrat Union|
The purpose of the trip to Marrakech was "to chair a meeting of the Executive Committee of the International Democrat Union", according to a New Zealand government statement issued on October 12.
New Zealand is seeking to improve economic ties with African countries. The New Zealand Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade describes the current relationships with African nations as "thin" and "based on Commonwealth and sporting ties, historical support for African independence, and a long history of humanitarian and development assistance. Although these ties will remain important, New Zealand is seeking to move beyond our current level of contact with Africa, to develop trade linkages and find fresh ways of connecting with African interests."
African countries offer opportunities for increased bilateral trade. Although New Zealand’s trade with most African nations remains modest, exports to the continent have increased steadily since 1998. The North African markets, in particular, have shown rapid growth and are now of significant value. The recent upheaval in the Maghreb countries has sparked a process of transition which will give rise to new challenges and opportunities for New Zealand. After many years of pessimism, a core of African economies – the “African Lions” - are starting to show signs of strength and sustainability - NZ Department of Foreign Affairs and TradeLinks are already being forged, as is shown by the trip to New Zealand earlier this year by a Moroccan delegation led by Amine Mounir Alaoui, head of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. The university was set up by Moroccan phosphate exporting company, Office Chérifien des Phosphates. During their visit the group visited Waikato, Auckland, Massey and Lincoln universities, as well as meeting with government agencies, Universities New Zealand and research partners in the new Lincoln Hub. Education New Zealand facilitated the visit.
|Outside Lincoln University L-R , Head of School of Agriculture (in back), , Head of Sales, Oceania, OCP, , Head of Delegation, , Executive VP Communication and Public Affairs, OCP (behind) and , Executive Vice President, Commercial, OCP.|
The main purpose of the visit was to explore the potential for cooperation in the agriculture and agri-tech area for the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University’s new School of Agriculture. They were impressed with the capability and applied/industry-based approach of the New Zealand universities, and were especially interested in research cooperation and the potential for student exchange, study abroad, PhD study and teacher training.
While in New Zealand the delegation promoted Morocco as a secure gateway to Africa and a bridge to western countries.
Now that links have been made, the focus will be on identifying some key areas of research collaboration and gradual expansion of the education partnerships.
|John Key meets with Benkirane|
It appears John Key enjoyed his brief sojourn, describing it on his Facebook page, he noted: "Chaired the latest meeting of the International Democrat Union in the amazing setting of Marrakech." The International Democrat Union (IDU) is the global working association of more than 80 Conservative, Christian Democrat and like-minded political parties of the centre and centre right.
John Key also travelled to Rabat and met with the Moroccan PM Benkirane.
I had a great discussion with Morocco Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane in Rabat yesterday. John Key @johnkeypm on TwitterThe meeting was described as fruitful and resulted in John Key being invited to stay for lunch.
|The Prime Ministerial lunch in Rabat|
Other "high level meetings"include chatting with President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, and President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels. “The EU is a key trade partner for New Zealand with two-way trade totalling more than $19.5 billion,” said John Keys.
Sadly, the New Zealand Prime Minister did not make it to Fez to meet with the Kiwi expats. However, we can report some good news for him. Our local supermarket now sells New Zealand butter in 5 kilo blocks.
Hard as it is to imagine, some New Zealanders think John Key's trip was not so much about diplomacy, but rather a crafty way of getting to see the final of the the Rugby World Cup.