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PRESS STATEMENT September 17, 2001

Ministers and senior officials from the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum countries meet in Apia, Samoa this week to set future directions for regional aviation policy.

The meetings on 18-19 September will consider proposals for regional cooperation in air services, safety regulation and oversight, management of upper airspace, and air freight. Deliberations will be structured around the general theme of "regional integration through policy cooperation."

Ministers and officials will consider a draft Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement, designed to facilitate creation of a single regional aviation market to strengthen Forum island country airlines, stimulate growth, and build a framework for expanded tourism and investment in the region.

They will also receive proposals for cooperation in safety regulation and oversight that are expected to reduce costs, increase capacities, and improve standards.

Ministers and officials will also examine cooperative approaches to a unified regional airspace, managed for the benefit of the region. Each of these areas is expected to build on the benefits of integration within an enabling public policy environment.

"Aviation in the Pacific has been confronted with many difficult challenges recently, yet it is also faced with great opportunities," said the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr. Noel Levi, CBE.

"Expanding tourism, export of high-value commodities, increasing regional integration in trade, and vastly improved communications set the stage for development.

"We have come to think of aviation as an essential service, and people are looking to ensure its improvement. Forum policy meetings provide an avenue for our concerted regional efforts, and we are embarking on one this week that will have far-reaching effects," Mr Levi said.

In attendance will be the Prime Ministers of Samoa and Cook Islands, nine Ministers, senior officials from all 16 Forum member countries, and the Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

This is the third Forum Aviation Policy Meeting (others were held in 1998 and 1999) and is organized and supported by the Forum Secretariat.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at 

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