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CANBERRA, Australia (June 25, 2002 – Radio Australia)---An Australian parliamentary committee has recommended ratification of a treaty on closer economic relations with Pacific island states.

The Joint Treaties Committee was reporting on Australia's dealings with the 14 developing members of the Pacific Island Forum, which are setting up a free trade area.

The committee says the agreement will ensure Australia's trade interests are not disadvantaged when island states in the region begin to negotiate free trade agreements with other countries.

Australia's Foreign Affairs Department says the island states are due to start trade negotiations with the European Union in September.

The department's analysis says the treaty will give Australia the same right as Europe to negotiate for enhanced trade access to the island.

The Joint Treaties Committee says Australia and New Zealand are called on to create special trade facilitation programs to benefit the Forum Island countries.

The report notes concerns in the Pacific that the removal of all trade and investment barriers could harm island businesses because of competition from cheap imports.

But the committee quoted evidence that Forum states accepted the reality that they could not stop the international movement towards freer trade.

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