SOLOMONS CAUTIONED BY LEVI OVER WITHDRAWAL FROM MELANESIAN TRADE DEAL

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By Charles Stennett Kereau Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (July 4, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Noel Levi has cautioned the Solomon Islands over its bid to be temporarily suspended from the Melanesian Spearhead Group Trade Agreement.

Speaking to regional journalists in Port Vila, Vanuatu, Mr. Levi said there is a clause in the agreement the Solomon Islands might breach if it suspends itself.

As well there are procedures it must follow to achieve its planned temporary exit.

The Solomon Islands should thoroughly discuss the issue with other Melanesian Spearhead Group members before taking further action, he said.

The Solomon Islands plans to suspend itself from the trade agreement for a three-year period.

The Solomon Islands government says this is because of the poor financial situation the country is in because of the damage caused by ethnic conflict and law and order problems of recent years.

It cites a major trade imbalance it has compared to the other members of the agreement: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu.

Melanesian Spearhead Group member countries will meet later this year in Fiji. This could be the time the Solomon Islands discusses its intention with member countries.

Meanwhile, Vanuatu has expressed reservations about supporting the Solomon Islands' plan.

It said if the suspension is granted, the Solomon Islands would have the freedom to import goods from Australia and other countries at relatively low prices.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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