Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Key hopes Mexico visit builds profile

John Key receives a State welcome in Mexico City on the first day of his nine-day visit to Latin America. Photo / Facebook/Supplied
John Key receives a State welcome in Mexico City on the first day of his nine-day visit to Latin America. Photo / Facebook/Supplied

Prime Minister John Key arrived in Mexico City last night, and said he was hopeful that his visit would help raise New Zealand's profile in the region.

Mr Key spoke at a business breakfast this morning and meets with Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto today where he said the pair would talk about the Trans Pacific Partnership, which both countries are taking part in.

He was hoping the visit would deepen the relationship with Mexico - Mr Key is the first foreign leader to be hosted by Mr Pena Nieto since his inauguration last December.

However, the Government's decision to introduce plain packaging of tobacco could bring Mr Key some grief while in Mexico, which is strongly opposed to such a move.

Mr Key said New Zealand would be highly unlikely to defy any potential World Trade Organisation ruling against the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco, saying it would not be worth it for a "relatively small issue."

Mr Key said the Government's plans would take place over time, which allowed the WTO time to consider the matter.

"New Zealand has never not observed a WTO ruling and that is because they are the basic rules that set the trading conditions that countries trade with each other under and we wouldn't want to upset the apple cart over a relatively small issue".

He said he believed raising the price of tobacco was a more effective tool than plain packaging. He said it was up to Mexico to decide what its view was, but the New Zealand Government's goal was for the country to be smoke-free by 2025.

He said that issue should not affect the Trans Pacific Partnership talks which include both New Zealand and Mexico and which are expected to be one of the main discussion points when Key meets Mr Pena Nieto.

"There will be certain conditions written into that, as there are for all other free trade agreements, where we are free to determine our own domestic rules. That is not a show stopper there - it's more the WTO."

The venue of the meeting with Mr Pena Nieto changed at the last minute yesterday, believed to be because of ongoing protests about education reforms initiated by Mr Pena Nieto.

Mr Key said he expected to discuss both international and domestic issues with President Pena Nieto.

He said although the trading relationships were currently modest, they had the potential to grow.

"This is part of laying a foundation stone for future opportunities for New Zealand companies and New Zealand generally." He said his visit would help give New Zealand a higher profile.

"We are also now part of TPP together so we will have significant discussions on that front."

He said Mexico was part of the G20 and was predicted to become the seventh largest economy in the world by 2020, helped by its growing middle class.

- NZ Herald

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