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BRUSSELS, Belgium (August 12, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji Ambassador Isikeli Mataitoga is leading the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group in negotiations on the renewal of the Special Preferential Sugar Agreement with the European Union.

The delayed negotiations have finally begun in Brussels and are expected to be concluded in September.

Sugar -- one of Fiji's main foreign currency earners -- is sold to the important European markets under two instruments: the Sugar Protocol and the Special Preferential Sugar Agreement.

The Protocol has indefinite duration but the first Special Preferential Sugar Agreement expired June 30. Until the new agreement is negotiated, a transitional arrangement has been put in place on the same terms as the expired agreement.

This was necessitated due to the late approval by the European Union Council of Ministers of the mandate to begin the negotiation process.

Ambassador Mataitoga is chair of the ACP Sugar Consultative Group. The European side in the negotiations is led by David Roberts, the Deputy Director-General of the European Commission Directorate responsible for Agriculture.

The single most difficult issue from the ACP side is the "price" followed by a request to increase the quantity of sugar to be supplied by the ACP states under the agreement.

On both these issues the ACP sugar ministers in their recent meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, gave clear mandates to Ambassador Mataitoga on what must be the position during the negotiations.

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