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SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 3, 2000 – Radio Australia)---A special representative of U.S. President Bill Clinton has resigned, claiming labor and immigration policies in the Northern Marianas are at odds with those in the rest of the United States.

Edward Cohen, who had been involved in talks with the Northern Marianas, says such policies generate an array of concerns about the compatibility of the two political jurisdictions.

He says labor and immigration laws in the Northern Marianas will be an impediment to future administrations seeking to work together.

Mr. Cohen adds that the Northern Marianas has structured its economy on the availability of a regular supply of low-cost guest workers.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.




By Benhur C. Saladores

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (August 4, 2000 – Saipan Tribune)---Expressing regret over the resignation of President Clinton's special representative to CNMI-U.S. consultation talks, the islands' chief negotiator, Lt. Gov. Jesus R. Sablan, yesterday refuted alleged failure by both parties to iron out differences on labor and immigration issues.

He said the talks, guaranteed under Section 902 of the Covenant, have "progressed" despite the comments made by Edward B. Cohen on the contentious issues when he resigned from the post.

"I respect his view and he just also has to respect our view which is that we look at the matter as a joint effort, a partnership," Mr. Sablan told reporters in an interview.

He stressed that the talks involve mutual understanding where the two governments can meet halfway to reach an agreement on issues on the table.

"Regarding [Mr. Cohen's] comments that it has failed, I disagree terribly. I think we have progressed," added Mr. Sablan, without elaborating.

Mr. Cohen has described the process a failure, particularly on immigration and minimum wage issues, which have driven a wedge in the ties between the Commonwealth and Washington in recent years.

The Clinton administration has been pressing federal takeover of these functions -- controls given to the island government under the Covenant -- due to alleged failure by the CNMI to curb the number of nonresident workers and to stem labor abuses.

Island leaders have opposed the move because of its devastating impact on the economy, which has relied on foreign manpower due to a limited local workforce.

The 902 talks were last held on Saipan in January last year where both parties did not reach a consensus on immigration and minimum wage issues.

As a result of that discussion, Mr. Cohen in December proposed a new takeover proposal, which he said he had "reluctantly" recommended in light of the Tenorio administration's inability to stick with a package of reforms it has promised to undertake.

He cited the exemptions granted to businesses from the hiring ban on foreign workers imposed last year in the CNMI as well as the failure by a local wage review board to propose an increase in the island's minimum wage level.

Mr. Cohen also maintained that since meeting with local officials in the 902 talks, the CNMI government has "not continued" efforts to curb labor abuses here and stem the influx of nonresident workers.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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