FORUM PROMOTES PACIFIC FREE TRADE ZONE PLAN

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 5, 1999 - Radio Australia)---Officials from the South Pacific Forum have begun traveling to the regional organization's 16 member nations to promote the proposed Pacific Free Trade Area, in preparation for ministerial meetings on the plan that have been scheduled to take place in Suva next month.

Forum Secretary General Noel Levi already has been in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands for talks with the two nation's prime ministers and other senior officials there, and now is on his way to New Zealand.

He said the free trade zone concept compliments the trading aims of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

The Pacific regional plan, he said, will provide more trade opportunities and improved airline and shipping services for the regions' six million people:

"That is a very significant trading bloc," Levi said.

"Under the free trade agreement you expect countries to reduce their tariffs," he noted. "When tariffs are reduced then commodities can move freely within the region."

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