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SUVA, Fiji (July 8, 1998 - PACNEWS)----"All discussion at the first day’s meeting of Forum economic ministers is well ahead of schedule," said the Acting Finance Minister of Fiji, Berenado Vunibobo, following Tuesday's closed door session in Nadi, Fiji. Vunibobo is chairing this year's Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting (FEMM).

Vunibobo says more work needs to be done on such issues as free-trade among Forum islands, because it is a long term issue that takes place in a multi-lateral environment. As an example, he cites Forum Island nations seeking membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO). This means regional countries wishing to join have to implement WTO policies that can be expensive and raise the question of viability for small island states.

WTO calls for the removal of all trade barriers and the scrapping of all preferential treatment provided by trade agreements such as Lomé. It believes this ensures everyone competes on a level playing field. Vunibobo says vulnerability of small island states is not being used as a yard stick by the WTO. He says this has prompted FEMM to look at requesting observer status in Geneva, to represent Forum Island countries. Vunibobo adds that the issue will be raised at the forthcoming Commonwealth Ministers’ meeting of Small Island States.

Other issues discussed yesterday included transparency in government operations; public accountability and stock taking reports presented by each delegation; and the survey of case studies on the social impact of economic reforms in the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Cook Islands.

Today is FEMM's final day, when arrangements for next year's summit are to be decided by the 16 delegations.

Most Forum countries are represented by their economic ministers at the Nadi meeting, except Fiji, Solomon Islands, Australia, Papua New Guinea, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Nauru, who are represented by other top government officials.



SUVA, Fiji (July 8, 1998 - PACNEWS)---Vanuatu's Minister of Finance, Sela Molisa, says an important achievement for the country at the Forum Economic Ministers’ Meeting (FEMM) now under way in Nadi, Fiji, is the agreement of FEMM, as a group, to lobby the United Nations to maintain Vanuatu's status as a Less Developed Country (LDC).

Speaking during a break in the meeting, Molisa said he does not believe the UN proposal to promote Vanuatu out of LDC status is based on accurate information.

Molisa says that removing Vanuatu’s LDC status would disqualify the country for some international donor assistance, which could endanger important national economic reform projects now under way.

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