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TOKYO, Japan (November 20, 1997- PIDP/CPIS)---The Tokyo-based Pacific Islands Centre, established by the South Pacific Forum and the government of Japan to encourage Pacific Islands region economic development, last month celebrated its first anniversary.

With organizational activities now complete, the director of the international organization, Yoshiaki Kotaki, says a variety of new trade, investment and tourism activities now are being pursued that will benefit the economic well-being of both Japan and the nations of the Pacific.

Niche markets under development by Japanese companies, said the former diplomat in Fiji during an interview, include the manufacture of automotive parts in Samoa, cattle ranching in Vanuatu, fish canning in the Solomon Islands, coffee production in Papua New Guinea, and black pearl farming in the Cook Islands.

Discussions now are underway in the Federated States of Micronesia, he added, to use coconut shells in the manufacture of Asian chops, or name stamps, as traditional ivory no longer is permitted.

Other island export business possibilities, Kotaki said, include the growing of exotic flowers and pulp for fine paper.

However, the greatest potential for joint business development, Kotaki believes, is in the tourism area. The Palau government, he noted, now is talking with Japan Air Lines about establishing direct jet flights to the popular diving and snorkeling destination.

The Pacific Islands Centre is located on the ground floor of the prestigious Akasaka Twin Tower complex near Tokyo's government center. Readily available to Japanese business representatives are reference materials for each of the Pacific Islands countries.

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