Minister Brownlee reflects positively on visit to Tonga.

Minister Gerry Brownlee concluded his first trip to the Pacific since taking on the role as New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and described it as a resounding success.

Minister Brownlee said “I’ve been humbled by the warm welcome and hospitality extended to me by the people of Tonga and have found learning more about this beautiful kingdom both rewarding and informative.

I’ve managed to pack a lot in to my two days here – I’ve met with His Majesty King Tupou VI and Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, as well as several ministers, representatives of the Nobles, local business leaders and exporters.

A highlight for me was seeing the New Zealand-funded Tonga Village electricity upgrade project in action. Not only will projects like this make daily life a little easier for communities, but with resilient infrastructure comes more resilient economies.

I believe Tonga has many opportunities to grow its economy – through enhanced export trade, manufacturing, agriculture and tourism.

As with any nation trying to grow its economy, I’m aware Tonga faces many challenges and I’m eager to see how New Zealand may be able to help Tonga overcome some of them.

The reason I chose to visit Tonga so early in my tenure as Foreign Minister is because I value the close and cooperative relationship between our two nations. My predecessor placed particular emphasis on the Pacific over the last eight years and I would like to assure people that I intend to do the same.

I believe maritime security should be an essential focus for both New Zealand and Tonga as illegal ocean activity undermines all Pacific nations.

Tonga and New Zealand have close ties in the Defence, security, justice and energy sectors and I look forward to building on the already strong relationship between our two countries”.

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