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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 26, 1999 – PACNEWS)---Tuvalu’s only overseas diplomatic mission is expected to occupy a new building in the Fiji capital, Suva, by the end of next month.

Construction of the three-story $FJ 1 million (US$ 500,000) Tuvalu High Commission began in November last year.

Tuvalu’s High Commissioner to Fiji, Enele Sapoaga, told PACNEWS one of the reasons for selecting Suva as the site for the mission was because Fiji is a significant transit point for Tuvalu in the region.

"This is the only diplomatic mission for Tuvalu in the world and we chose Fiji because Fiji is important for Tuvalu in terms of education, training and medical services," he said.

"There is also the matter of Tuvalu’s important trade links with Fiji. Tuvalu has signed a bilateral free trade agreement with Fiji. It exports produce and goods including fresh fish, coconuts and handicraft to Fiji under this non-reciprocal agreement. We get to export some products to Fiji tax-free but Fiji products still have to pay tariffs while entering Tuvalu. It is a form of assistance from a big country like Fiji."

Sapoaga said another reason for building the mission in Fiji was because it is host to a number of Tuvalu’s bilateral donors and development partners, including the High Commissions of Australia and New Zealand, and the Japanese and other embassies. There are also a number of key regional organizations in Fiji, including the United Nations Development Programme, the South Pacific Forum Secretariat, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, to name a few.

He said there was need for a new High Commission because the current building was becoming too expensive to maintain.

Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, who is also Foreign Minister, Ionatana Ionatana, is expected to officially open the new High Commission later this year.

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