MEDIA RELEASE
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS - ALEXANDER DOWNER

26 April 2000

DIPLOMATIC APPOINTMENT: AMBASSADOR TO PORTUGAL

I have announced today the appointment of Dr Janet Gardiner as Australia's Ambassador to Portugal.

Dr Gardiner will be the first Ambassador in the newly reopened post in Lisbon The Australian Embassy in Lisbon was last open in 1992.

The reopening of the Embassy marks a new chapter in our relations with Portugal. Our two countries have established close contacts on East Timor and we enjoy a new spirit of friendship and cooperation. The Embassy will play a leading role in building a' stronger relationship based on mutual interests particularly in relation to trade and investment but also involving a greater degree of overall interaction between us including greater cooperation in areas such as culture, education and tourism. There has been a steady growth in tourist numbers with an increase of 28% (3,315) in visitor arrivals in 1999.

Portugal's solid economic performance and integration with the European Union (Portugal currently holds the rotating EU Presidency), its important historical and commercial links including with countries in South America and Africa, and membership of regional and international organisations particularly NATO, make it an important partner for Australia in Europe. Portugal was amongst the first EU countries to join EMU. It is also a Schengen country (along with Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Germany and Spain).

Portugal's commercial links with Australia have considerable scope to grow. In fiscal year 1999, twoway trade reached A$195 million. Australia's major exports, valued at A$54 million, were coal, medicaments, cotton, wool and pigments, paints and varnishes. Cork manufactures are by far the most important Portuguese export to Australia, accounting for half of Portugal's total exports of A$141 million.

Bilateral visits are becoming more frequent. The Portuguese Foreign Minister, Dr Jaime Gama visited Australia in 1998 and 1999. 1 visited Lisbon in 1998 and subsequently in February 2000 for EU Presidency consultations and bilateral meetings with the Portuguese Government including the Prime Minister, Antonio de Oliveira Guterres and the President, Dr Jorge Sampaio. The Portuguese Defence Minister, Julio Castro Caldas, visited Australia in February 2000.

Dr Gardiner joined the then Department of Foreign Affairs in 1982. She has served as Ambassador in Damascus (1998-1999), as Counsellor/Deputy Head of Mission in Bonn (1994-1998), as First Secretary and Deputy Head of Mission in Hanoi (1989-1991) and as Third/Second Secretary in Belgrade (1983-1985). In Canberra from 1991 to 1992 she worked as a member of the Cambodia Task Force and from 1992 to 1994 as Director, European Communities Section.


Media contacts:
(Ministerial) Innes Willox (02) 6277-7500
(Departmental) Matt Francis/Julie McDonald (02) 6261-1555

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