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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (March 22, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---New Caledonia’s trade deficit with Australia reached a record 19.6 billion CFP (US$ 148 million) during the year 2000, the daily newspaper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes reports, quoting the French territory’s latest trade statistics.

The Statistics Office announced that the increase in the value of goods imported from Australia is mainly due to a strong dollar rate throughout last year, but also "the dynamism of (Australian) salesmen."

Some of the main contributors to the deficit were fuel, electrical products, vegetables and other food products.

The deficit for 1999 was 10.5 billion CFP (US$ 78.5 million).

The statistics office anticipates a further deficit this year.

New Caledonia, due to the mad cow and foot and mouth disease restrictions in Europe, has allowed only New Zealand and Australia to export meat to its shores.

Meanwhile, exports from New Caledonia to Australia (mainly frozen shrimps, nickel ore, cattle hide, copper and aluminum residues) have stagnated.

Australia and New Caledonia are currently negotiating a bilateral trade agreement.

"New Caledonia’s products are pretty well regarded in Australia," said Cyrillic Bethalto, Australia’s trade office marketing manager for New Caledonia.

"But you can’t force them to buy your products. One of the key factors is marketing," he said.

For additional reports from Orientation Oceania, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Sources/Orientation Oceania.

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