SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM SECRETARIAT

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Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT January 25, 1999

PACIFIC SHOULD CONSIDER ENVIRONMENT WHEN NEGOTIATING INTERNATIONAL TRADE: BERENADO VUNIBOBO

Fiji's Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon. Berenado Vunibobo, has told delegates attending a regional seminar in Fiji that environmental issues must always be a consideration when the region engages in international trade negotiations.

"Already there are concerns raised by small island states that small economies are increasingly marginalized under the emerging framework of an international economic order that is insensitive to their needs and special situation of smallness and islandness.

"Critical to this smallness is the environment, which plays a pivotal role in the quality of products that our economic systems can produce. This is the reason trade negotiations from our side must always incorporate environmental issues," Mr. Vunibobo said.

He was addressing the opening today of a Trade and Environment seminar at the South Pacific Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji. The three-day seminar will provide an overview of trade and environment issues and help identify priorities for the region ahead of international meetings this year of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Commission on Sustainable Development.

The Minister said the seminar was important strategically as it would help the delegates become effective negotiators not only for their own countries but the region as well.

"Currently, under the WTO agreement, negotiations covering a number of agreements including agriculture will begin on January 1, 2000. Intense discussions have been undertaken for the formation of a free trade area in the region.

"Issues such as the vulnerability and fragility of our eco-system should be considered and the Forum countries are committed in articulating these special features in international and regional fora, because of its influential effect on our competitive capability," Mr. Vunibobo said.

Among the trade opportunities for Forum countries was the organic food market, as well as sustainable use of traditional products such as timber and fish. The Minister said he hoped the seminar discussions would help steer policy in the region towards both economic growth and preservation of the environment.

For more information:

Ulafala Aiavao (UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj)

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