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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 22, 1999 - PACNEWS/Daily Post)---Fiji's export earnings from Australia increased by over US$ 27 million last year.

Total 1998 exports to Australia stood at US$ 172 million.

The Daily Post reports this was a significant increase from 1997 despite a drop of US$ 5.5 million in gold earnings.

The increase was attributed largely to a marked rise in export earnings from garments, which now make up 60 percent of all Fiji exports to Australia.

Fiji's Trade Commissioner in Australia, Ratu Meli Malani, said the growth in garment exports results from an increasing number of Australian production plants being relocated to Fiji. The Australian industry has been under pressure from falling tariff levels and high wage rates.

Ratu Meli said the favorable exchange rate brought about by the devaluation of the Fiji dollar last year also contributed to the increase in earnings.

He said he expects the growth in garment exports to continue this year judging by the inquiries and project proposals being channeled through the Sydney Trade Commission.

Notable increases in earnings also were recorded by Fiji's footwear and furniture sectors

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