FIJI AND AUSTRALIA IN EMERGENCY TALKS ON CLOTHING DUTY

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SUVA, Fiji (January 27, 1998 - Radio Australia)---Fiji's Finance Minister Jim Ah Koy and Foreign Minister Berenado Vunibobo have held emergency talks with Australian officials in Canberra, in an effort to limit the impact of last week's 20 percent devaluation of the Fiji dollar on clothing exports to Australia.

Most of Fiji's clothing products receive duty-free access to Australia under the SPARTECA trade agreement, which requires 50 per cent local content.

Last week's devaluation eroded Fiji's capacity to meet that level.

Ah Koy said officials had agreed to consider a temporary relaxation in the local content requirement subject to Fiji submitting its case in writing.

The Fiji Finance Minister said he was seeking no more than to preserve Fiji's pre-devaluation privileges.

He said he would need an answer from Australia within four weeks.

Meantime, Radio Australia Pacific correspondent Richard Dinnen reports thousands of jobs may be lost in Fiji's garment industry, if the trade agreement is not changed.

That 20 per cent devaluation of the Fiji dollar is designed to make Fijian exports more competitive, Dinnen reports, but, he added, it may have a potentially devastating effect on Fiji's lucrative clothing exports to Australia.

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