MEDIA RELEASE

MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ALEXANDER DOWNER


FA 111

13 October 1999

Diplomatic Appointment: Ambassador to Venezuela

I have today announced the appointment of Mr John Woods as Australia's Ambassador to the Republic of Venezuela with non-resident accreditation to Colombia, Ecuador and the Dominican Republic.

Mr Woods will replace Mr Roger Frankel who has been Ambassador since January 1996. Mr Woods is expected to take up his appointment in February 2000.

Australia enjoys friendly relations with Venezuela and has been active in promoting commercial links. Recent Australian export successes have included the inaugural voyage of an Australian-made fast ferry in Venezuelan waters and a decision by a leading Venezuelan food and beverage distribution group to import Australian wine. Venezuela also sends growing numbers of students to study in Australia. On the investment front, Venezuela's vast deposits of gold, diamonds, iron ore and bauxite provide opportunities for Australian mining know-how and capital. BHP already has significant interests in the construction of a US$780m hot briquetted iron plant in south east Venezuela, scheduled for commissioning early in the new year.

Australia-Colombia relations are positive and characterised by close cooperation in the Cairns Group of nations for free and fair agricultural trade. Cooperation in the mining and energy sectors is also emerging. Long term commercial opportunities for Australian business exist in the agriculture, mining and telecommunications sectors. A success story in recent years has been the increasing attractiveness of the Australian education sector to Colombians seeking to study abroad. In 1998-99, 500 Colombian and Venezuelan students received visas to study in Australia, of whom 90 per cent were from Colombia.

Although more modest, Australia's relations with Ecuador and the Dominican Republic are cordial. Ecuador, in particular, has shown its confidence in the future of bilateral relations with the appointment of an Ambassador to Australia earlier this year. Australia also cooperates with both these countries in multilateral forums such as the UN.

Mr Woods, an experienced career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs, has most recently been Director of the Japan Section, North Asia Division. After joining the Department in 1973 he had postings to Jeddah (1974-76), and as First Secretary to Cairo (1980-82) and London (1983-86). Mr Woods was Director of Parliamentary Liaison and Ministerial Correspondence Section (1986-87), Deputy High Commissioner in New Delhi (1987-90), Director, UN and Commonwealth Section (1990-92), Director, Korea Section (1993-95) and a Director in the Trade Negotiations Division (1995-98). He was awarded the Public Service Medal in 1990.

Mr Woods was born in Sydney in 1950 and has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree from the University of Sydney and an Economics degree from the Australian National University. He is married with two children.


Media Enquiries: Minister - Liz O'Neill 02 6277 7500
Department - Tony Melville 02 6261 1555

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