PACIFIC ISLANDS SEEK HELP FROM JAPAN FOR EU EXPORTS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 25, 2000 – Post-Courier)---Papua New Guinea has asked Japan to support a request by small and vulnerable Pacific Island nations to the World Trade Organization for favorable treatment of their exports to the European Union countries.

Under the LOMÉ convention on trade, exports from most South Pacific Forum countries are able to enter European markets duty-free, which gives them a competitive advantage. WTO rules outlaw such preferential trade treatment.

"The small advantage that Pacific Island countries, including PNG, get from duty-free, get for their products is essential if we are to build our export capacity sufficiently to prosper in the face of increasing globalization of trade and intense competitiveness," Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta said.

"Pacific Island countries suffer from many disadvantages, especially because of their remoteness and their small domestic markets, which must be overcome.

"The LOMÉ convention arrangements, between the European Union and the African Caribbean Pacific Group, provide us with a chance to be competitive while we reform our economies and integrate them with the rest of the world," he said.

Eight of the forum countries, including PNG, are members of the ACP Group, which gives them duty-free access to the EU.

A further six are seeking membership.

The request is one of a number of strategies adopted by forum countries to try to prevent their economies from being left by the wayside in international trade.

Sir Mekere said the LOMÉ arrangements were a way of overcoming the vulnerability of Pacific Island states and that this should be recognized by the WTO.

"Japan can play a very important role in support of our own efforts," he told government officials in Tokyo during the South Pacific Forum/Japan summit.

Sir Mekere, who spoke on behalf of all forum countries at a high -level business luncheon in Tokyo, also welcomed initiatives by Japan to support sustainable development of forum member countries.

Japan was contributing to a number of valuable regional projects promoting trade, investment, tourism and commercial activities.

Sir Mekere also told government officials and business leaders, including Prime Minister Mori, that government support for private-sector development and private Japanese investment in Papua New Guinea was enhancing the country's international competitiveness.

He said the Japanese government and the business sector could also make a worthwhile and much-needed contribution to the development of human resources and economic infrastructure.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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