Minister for Foreign Affairs

Alexander Downer

FA 162

23 December 1997



I have today announced the appointment of Ms Martine Letts as Australian Ambassador to the Argentine Republic, with non-resident accreditation to the Republic of Paraguay and the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.

Ms Letts will replace Mr Warwick Weemaes, who has been Ambassador since April 1996.

Australia has an important and expanding relationship with Argentina, based on common political and economic multilateral interests, and a promising growth in trade and investment. The two countries liaise closely on such matters as international trade policy (especially on agriculture through the Cairns Group, of which Uruguay and Paraguay are also members), international and regional economic cooperation policies, the role of the UN, international peacekeeping, nuclear and disarmament issues, Antarctica, and international environment policy. The exchanges Australia now has with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay through the CER (Australia and New Zealand) - Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) dialogue process is another example of Australia's increasingly close involvement in the South American region.

While trade between Australia and Argentina remains modest (around A$200 million annual two-way trade), Australian investors have shown considerable interest in prospects in Argentina's economy, with Australia now ranked as one of the largest investors in the mining sector. It is hoped that the increase in Australian investor interest will, in due course, flow through to increased levels |of bilateral trade (particularly Australian services exports to Argentina). Over recent years, Australia's main exports to Argentina have included coal, telecommunications equipment, catamarans, and electrical power machinery.

Australia's trade and economic interests in Paraguay and Uruguay are small, yet Australia has a mutually beneficial dialogue with these countries on a range of regional and international issues, notably in the Cairns Group of Agricultural Traders and the CER-Mercosur dialogue process. Australia looks forward to expanding such cooperative relations with Paraguay and Uruguay on issues of common interest.

Ms Letts joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1983 and has served in Suva and Geneva (twice) as the Australian Representative to the Geneva based Conference on Disarmament (CD). From 1992 to 1994 Ms Letts was an Adviser to the Foreign Minister. Since 1994 Ms Letts has held the position of Counsellor and Deputy Head of Mission in Vienna.

Ms Letts holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons, Political Science and German) from the Australian National University.

She is expected to take up her appointment in February 1998.