Ambassador Traslosheros, Parliamentary colleagues, the Dean and members of the Diplomatic Corps, distinguished guests, members of Mexico’s community in New Zealand, ladies and gentlemen.
While it’s an honour and a privilege for me to join you in celebrating Mexico’s National Day, can I first say that I and I’m sure all New Zealanders were deeply saddened to hear news of the devastating earthquake that struck Mexico last week.
On behalf of the New Zealand Government, Ambassador, please accept our sincere condolences and please convey that message to the people of Mexico. The thoughts of all New Zealanders are with the injured, the loved ones of those affected, and the emergency services staff at the forefront of the response.
As you will all know, New Zealand is no stranger to dealing with the tragic impact of earthquakes and their aftershocks. We understand the effect that these events can have at a national level and recognise the importance of international solidarity.
So as a nation, we wish you both strength in dealing with the consequences of this event and resilience as you begin to recover and rebuild.
Our two countries enjoy a strong and well-established friendship. With partnerships in trade, agriculture, sport, and the arts, our two countries have an excellent relationship, full of opportunities.
Recently we made good progress on one of those opportunities. In June, my colleague Gerry Brownlee, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, attended the Pacific Alliance summit in Cali, Colombia, where he met with Secretary Videgaray.
Thanks to the support of Mexico, we were able to announce the launch of free trade negotiations with the Alliance at the summit, and we are very grateful to Mexico for that support.
An agreement with the Alliance will provide a host of new opportunities for New Zealand and Mexican businesses, and I look forward to seeing the fruits of greater collaboration between our countries.
Mexico and New Zealand also work closely together in agriculture.
Earlier this year, we hosted a study tour from Mexico organised through the New Zealand-Pacific Alliance Agricultural Cooperation Initiative.
Our Special Agricultural Trade Envoy visited Mexico this year and we are looking forward to signing our Agricultural Cooperation Arrangement in the near future.
In June we welcomed a four-person all-female delegation from the Mexican Senate led by Senator and track and field Olympic silver medallist Ana Gabriela Guevara.
The delegation met with members of the New Zealand-Latin America Parliamentary Friendship Group and the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians.
They also called on the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and met with officials to discuss issues of common interest between New Zealand and Mexico, including a discussion with the Ministry for Women.
2017 has been a good year for our cultural and sporting links with Mexico. In May, the New Zealand Film Festival opened in Mexico City.
With six feature films, including the instant classic Boy, and a selection of shorts, the festival encouraged audiences to immerse themselves in the language, culture, lives and society of New Zealand. It was a great success and was attended by over 1,200 people.
Then in June, our All Whites football team played Mexico in the Confederations Cup. Despite taking a strong first-half lead, the All Whites were not quite up to the challenge: Mexico came back for a deserved win.
Finally, I am proud to note that our growing friendship with Mexico is echoed by our growing embassy in Mexico City. Over the past year, we have added two new permanent positions, and next year we will add a third.
With our new ambassador, Mark Sinclair, starting work soon in Mexico, and the hard work of Ambassador Traslosheros here in Wellington, I know that the friendship between our countries is in safe hands.
Recognising and honouring the valuable friendship and the many threads of a relationship that continues to expand and deepen, on behalf of the Government of New Zealand, I propose the toast: to President Peña Nieto and to the Government, the representatives, and the people of the United Mexican States.