Prime Minister John Key will leave on a charm offensive of Latin America next week in the first bilateral visit of the region by a Prime Minister since Helen Clark in 2001, and the first time a Prime Minister has made an official visit to Colombia.
Mr Key will leave on Monday for the 10-day visit to Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Brazil with a trade delegation of 22 business representatives with him, including Fonterra, Silver Fern Farms, Zespri NZ, Mighty River Power and several technology and agricultural companies.
Although Mr Key has previously visited Peru for the Apec leaders' meeting in 2008, this will be the first full visit by a Prime Minister since 2001 to the region which New Zealand has targeted as an important market for future growth in trade.
Mr Key will meet with the leaders of each country.
Although New Zealand already has reasonably strong ties with Mexico and Chile, Mr Key will be the first New Zealand Prime Minister to make an official visit to Colombia, a country he said had undergone significant reforms in the past few years. "Colombia has made huge strides during the past decade and has a sharp focus on strengthening its ties with the Asia-Pacific region."
He said it was one of the fastest growing regions in the world and the four countries were "a natural fit" for trade with New Zealand, especially in agri-business, renewable energy and education.
Mr Key said there was significant scope for businesses and for international education in the four countries which have a combined GDP of US$4 trillion ($4.7 trillion). While trade with Brazil was still small, there was room for increase.