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New Zealand’s current relationship with Latvia is limited, although to the extent that constraints of size and distance allow, each country is seeking to strengthen bilateral ties. For New Zealand, Latvia is an EU member state that is internationalist and broadly likeminded on a number of issues, with a seat at the EU tables and historical links with Russia. For Latvia, value is seen in diversifying its portfolio of relationships to include small, like-minded non-EU members.
During the 1940s, a few hundred Latvians settled in New Zealand. The photographer Andris Apse is possibly the best-known Latvian New Zealander. Latvia came to the attention of New Zealanders in 2003 when a party of Latvian climbers died on Mt Cook. The commitment by the NZ authorities to handle this tragedy with efficiency and compassion was widely praised in Latvia.
New Zealand stepped up relations in 2004 with high-level visits by the Speaker and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Latvia reciprocated with a Speaker’s visit in 2007. Foreign Ministry consultations held in Wellington in 2006 and in Riga in 2008 indicated the value of sharing perspectives on global issues with another small, like-minded country. Furthermore, a Working Holiday Scheme was signed in 2008, with strong uptake by Latvians. Foreign affairs state secretary Andris Teikmanis (now London-based Ambassador to New Zealand) visited MFAT in November 2012.
Two-way trade between New Zealand and Latvia remains low, totalling about NZ$11 million.
Land Area: 64,589 sq km
Population: 2.0 million (2013)
Capital City: Riga
Language: Latvian; Russian is widely understood
Political system: Parliamentary democracy
National government: Centre-right coalition government of Unity, Reform Party, All For Latvia-For Fatherland And Freedom/LNNK, Union of Greens and Farmers
National legislature: Unicameral Parliament (Saeima), of 100 members
Last election: 2011
Next election due: 2014
Head of State: President Andris Bērziņš
Head of Government: Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma (since 2014)
GDP: US$30,434 million
Real GDP growth: 4.0%
Exports: US$12,668 million
Main exports: Food products, wood and wood products, metals
Imports: US$15,562 million
Current account balance: US$-614 million
Inflation: 0.2% (2013 average)
NZ Exports (FOB): NZ$8 m
NZ Imports (CIF): NZ$3 m
The Safetravel website provides a travel advisory for travellers to Latvia [external link].