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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 17, 2000 – Fiji’s Daily Post)---The U.S. Embassy says it would not have co-sponsored a visit to the U.S. by senior government officials had it known that government had already selected the CDC as its preferred partner to harvest Fiji's mahogany.

U.S. firm Timber Resource Management had also put in a bid to manage Fiji's mahogany.

The government officials visited the U.S. in September. However, reports say that the government had already decided to go with CDC as early as July.

The purpose of the visit to the U.S. was to brief the Fiji government on securitization (sic) and bond financing, "which were integral elements of the TRM bid and important aspects of large-scale investment projects globally," according to a statement from the Embassy.

In a strongly worded and yet diplomatic statement, the Embassy said that on a number of occasions, government representatives informed them that TRM was its preferred choice for the mahogany tender.

"We are therefore concerned that we may have been mislead. If the government initially preferred CDC, then favored TRM, as we are so informed, we question what prompted government's sudden reversal and decision to proceed with CDC.

"We are concerned with the statement that the U.S.-backed bid was a lot of ‘hot air.’ We are particularly concerned by the statement of a senior government representative that ‘multinational companies are a threat to Fiji's sovereignty.’

"Such comments are unwarranted. Indeed, Fiji's access to international investment and its investment rating may be harmed by such unsubstantiated comments," the unsigned statement said.

It further said that the Embassy's interest is to assist U.S. companies and to try to ensure that competition takes place on a level playing field.

"That is one of the highest priorities of the U.S. government. What we seek here in Fiji and elsewhere is a fair and open process, which includes all interested parties, and which maximizes benefits to all," the statement said.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/Fijilive.

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