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Trade Ministers from the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group have been told that the benefits of the new world economy cannot be realized if Pacific economies are embroiled with insecurity. Three Members of the Pacific Islands Forum -- namely, Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea -- are member economies of APEC, while the Forum is an Official Observer.

Speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, Samoa's Minister for Commerce, Trade and Industry, Hon. Hans Joachim Keil, said that security of economic growth must be ensured in order for Pacific Island economies to take advantage of the new economy. The APEC Trade Ministers met this week in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to discuss progress on trade policy reforms and appropriate measures to foster economic growth in the APEC region.

Hon. Keil said the Forum Island Countries (FICs) will try to implement domestic measures consistent with WTO and APEC principles and obligations, adding that the Forum's Observership with APEC has been rewarding.

As part of these efforts, the Forum Leaders in August 2001 endorsed the establishment of a free trade area among the FICs. The signing of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) is regarded as a landmark achievement for the region in terms of its trade and regional integration efforts. Both agreements are expected to come into force this year following ratification.

Hon. Keil said Forum Leaders had endorsed the start of negotiations on a Draft Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement (PIASA). The PIASA will increase access to air routes between the FICs, promote expansion and efficiency for FIC airlines, and cut costs to airlines which can be shared with users. These negotiations are to begin in June 2002.

The FICs are also preparing for the Economic Partnership Arrangement discussion with the EU under the Cotonou Agreement signed in June 2000 in Benin. The upcoming meeting of the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers in Fiji, in August this year, will determine several options.

Small island economies were constrained by their vulnerability, smallness and isolation. The Doha Development Agenda provides for the development of a Work Program for Small Economies especially in addressing the pressures of globalization. The Forum is working closely with the Caribbean Community and the Indian Ocean Commission Secretariats and other small economies in drawing proposals to be discussed at the Dedicated Sessions of the Committee on Trade and Development in WTO, as well as the 5th WTO Ministerial Meeting next year.

Hon. Keil said while the Forum was committed to the WTO process, the concerns of the small and vulnerable island economies must be considered if the global village was to share the benefits of trade liberalization. The FICs looked to Pacific Rim economies as markets for exports and sources of foreign direct investment. Forum Leaders had agreed to work towards the common goal of implementing open, liberal and transparent trade and investment policies consistent with APEC non-binding principles. Each member was working towards harmonizing its trade and investment regime through transparency and information sharing. Hon. Keil was accompanied by Mr. Jaindra Kumar, Director, Trade and Investment Division, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Mr. Kumar also attended the APEC Senior Officials Meeting that preceded the Trade Ministers Meeting.

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

Ulafala Aiavao Media Adviser Forum Secretariat Private Bag Suva, Fiji

Tel: (679) 3220 220 Mob: (679) 9998 674 Fax: (679) 3305 554 Email: UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj  Web: www.forumsec.org.fj  Mirror site: http://chacmool.sdnp.undp.org/pacific/forumsec/default1.htm 

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