FORUM ECONOMIC MINISTERS MEETING

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SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji

PRESS STATEMENT July 2, 1998

Ministers from the 16 South Pacific Forum member countries will meet in Nadi, Fiji on 7-8 July for the annual Forum Economic Ministers Meeting.

The objective of the meeting is to agree on practical measures to support the work of Forum Governments in developing appropriate economic policies for achieving their sustainable development goals.

The meeting will be opened by the Prime Minister of Fiji, Hon. Sitiveni Rabuka, on Monday 6 July, 1998. The meeting will be Chaired by Fiji's Minister for Foreign Affairs and Acting Minister of Finance, Hon. Berenado Vunibobo.

The meeting will provide member countries and the Forum Secretariat with the opportunity to report on and review progress made in the implementation of the Forum Economic Action Plan which was adopted in 1997. In this context, the Ministers will consider progress made on economic reforms in the region and discuss further action to advance implementation of their Action Plan.

Ministers will review progress in implementing the public accountability principles which they agreed to last year as an essential pre-condition to attracting investment and generating sustainable growth in the region. They will also consider practical impediments to investment including the cost of doing business in the region.

Apart from free trading arrangements and tariff reduction, Ministers will discuss reforms in the customs and quarantine administration to facilitate the flow of trade.

Equity will also be an important consideration as Ministers review and consider the social impacts of public sector reforms and of structural adjustment programs.

The meeting will review the cost-effectiveness of some of the key service sectors (telecommunications and energy) as well as consider ways of stimulating growth in the tree crops area as well as in tourism and information technology. The issue of information technology is of particular significance given the potential it offers to eliminate the cost disadvantages of being a small business in a small country a long way from markets.

The meeting is a follow-up to the 1997 meeting in Cairns, Australia where Ministers adopted a comprehensive Forum Economic Action Plan. The Forum Economic Action Plan spelled out strategic issues of importance to the region in promoting trade, investment, and private sector development.

MEDIA CONFERENCE: Wednesday, July 8, 1998, 11:00 a.m., Sheraton Royal Denarau Resort, Nadi, Fiji.

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