AUSTRALIA SEEKS MORE INFORMATION FROM FIJI ON

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SPARTECA REQUEST

CANBERRA, Australia (March 30, 1998 - PACNEWS/Ioane)---The Australian government has asked Fiji to provide additional information about Fiji's request to relax the rules of the SPARTECA trade agreement.

A delegation of Fiji government ministers visited Canberra in January seeking Australian assistance in helping Fiji cope with the devaluation of the Fiji dollar by 20 percent.

The delegation, headed by Minister of Finance Jim Ah Koy and Minister of Foreign Affairs Berenado Vunibobo, asked for a 10 percent reduction of the "rule of origin" provision in the SPARTECA agreement.

Ah Koy said he was seeking no more than to preserve Fiji's pre-devaluation privileges.

Goods made in Fiji now receive duty-free access to Australia if they contain at least 50 percent locally-made materials. Fiji wants the content reduced to 40 percent.

A spokesman for the Fiji High Commission in Canberra said the Australian government had asked for additional information, which was provided last week.

Meanwhile, Vunibobo now is in Sydney to represent Fiji at the 18th Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting, to take place Thursday and Friday. The meeting is considered critical, as it will develop objectives for the 1999 round of World Trade Organization negotiations on agriculture to be held in Geneva.

Fiji is the only Pacific Island nation to have membership in the Cairns Group.

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