The traditional Samoan kava ceremony held no fears for Prime Minister John Key on his arrival in the Pacific Island nation today.
Asked if he was going to partake ahead of an official meeting with Samoa's head of state, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Mr Key responded: "Hell yeah."
His wife Bronagh may not have viewed the ceremony with the same gusto, but she also took part by drinking from her bowl of the traditional drink.
Mr Key's meetings in the Pacific have so far been dominated by talks with other leaders on the global economic downturn and its impact on struggling Pacific economies.
He confirmed that dwindling remittances from Samoans in New Zealand to families back home was one of the key issues raised with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
Mr Key has made announcements in Tonga and Samoa so far promising extra aid.
New Zealand would "enhance" its aid programme to Samoa and increase development assistance, Mr Key said.
Aid would go from $10.5 million to $14 million this year, to $15m in 2009/10 and $17m in 2011/12, Mr Key said.
"We are also keen to pursue a formal 'Framework for Engagement' with Samoa that will guide our strengthened joint development assistance effort."
The development assistance would focus on education, health (including swine flu defence), public service improvement and private sector development, Mr Key said.
"The current global economic crisis, inflation, and increasing unemployment also require us to consider new ways of delivering assistance where it is most needed," he said.
New Zealand and Australia will provide help to Samoan families struggling to pay school fees. New Zealand will contribute $1m.
Mr Key also signed a Visiting Forces Agreement with Samoa allowing New Zealand Defence Force participation in relevant exercises in Samoa.
Yesterday, Mr Key announced the Government would increase official development assistance by $4m to $16m this year and up to $18m in the 2011/12 financial year.
He will visit Niue and the Cook Islands on the last two days of his four-day visit.
- with NZPA
- © Fairfax NZ News
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