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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (September 29, 2000)---U.S. and Marshall Islands officials kicked off two days of economic talks in Majuro this week Tuesday (September 26).

Terry Breese, the Director of the State Department’s Office of Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Island Affairs, headed the U.S. delegation, which included Compact negotiator Al Stayman, Interior and Defense officials.

Breese said the consultation was important for a number of reasons, including that it was the U.S.’s first face-to-face economic discussion with the new government. He said the two days of talks, mandated by the Compact, would help the U.S. to understand the RMI’s planning mechanism, which in turn will help the U.S. in its efforts to support greater self-sufficiency for the RMI.

The Marshalls public sector reform efforts are essential economic improvements he said, adding that he was particularly interested to hear more about the work of the Task Force on Accountability.

While highlighting the importance of government reform, Breese said that a strong private sector is the only means for establishing a self-sufficient economy in the Marshall Islands.

Acting Chief Secretary Walter Myazoe welcomed the American delegation and the large group of RMI government officials involved in the talks.

Foreign Minister Alvin Jacklick called on the two governments to work closely together so that U.S. funding is used effectively. The Marshalls is committed to working with the U.S. in a transparent manner, he added.

On economic development, Jacklick said that one of the major impediments was lack of skilled human resources. "We need to improve and develop our human resources," he said. Marshallese are not able to fully participate in the economy because of a lack of skills, he added.

During the discussions Tuesday and Wednesday, RMI officials presented reports on the activities of various ministries and development sectors, such as fisheries, agriculture and tourism.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: journal@ntamar.com  Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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