FORUM FREE TRADE AREA NEGOTIATIONS MEETING

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SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT August 25, 2000

AUGUST 28-30

Trade officials from the 16-member South Pacific Forum will meet in Nadi, Fiji next week (August 28-30) to begin negotiations for a free trade area, or Pacific Regional Trade Agreement (PARTA). The meeting will consider the details of a draft text which was endorsed in principle by the Forum leaders at last year's Forum in Palau.

The meeting will first consider the question of how, and under what circumstances, the free trade agreement will apply to the developed members of the Forum, i.e. Australia and New Zealand. A major consultancy report on the subject has been prepared by the South Pacific Forum Secretariat for consideration by the trade officials.

The three-day meeting will focus mainly on ironing out any differences that may exist over the precise wording of the draft framework agreement between Forum members. Each member will present national negotiating positions on the text of the agreement, before trying to reconcile any differences between members.

Each of the 14 Forum Island Countries will also present a schedule of concessions that will be considered on the last day. The schedule will outline how, and over what time period, each member will eliminate tariffs on imports from other Forum Island Countries.

It is envisaged that developing Forum members will have an eight-year timetable to eliminate import duties, while the nine Forum members who are Smaller Island States or Least Developed Countries will have ten years to do so.

By 2012, it is expected that a free trade area will have extended across the Forum Island Countries.

A second round of negotiations is scheduled for early 2001, to be followed by a Forum Trade Ministers meeting in June next year to consider the draft text for Forum leaders' consideration in 2001. Implementation of the free trade area is expected to begin from January 2002.

Note: Forum Members: Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Forum members who are Smaller Islands States or Least Developed Countries: Cook Islands (SIS), Kiribati (SIS/LDC), Nauru (SIS), Niue (SIS), Republic of Marshall Islands (SIS), Samoa (LDC), Solomon Islands (LDC), Tuvalu (SIS/LDC), Vanuatu (LDC).

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj 

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