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By Tukaha Mua Fiji TV

PORT VILA (July 4, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Call it a schoolyard bully tactic. But, believe or not, ice cream is causing a degree of bitterness in Vanuatu’s trade relationship with the "big boys" of the region.

In this case, the "bullies" are claimed to be Fiji and Papua New Guinea and the "kid" being picked on is Vanuatu.

Why ice cream?

Tuckers, a Fiji-based brand of ice cream manufactured by Australian multinational Goodman Fielder, is imported and sold on the Vanuatu market.

According to Vanuatu’s Department of Trade, a Tuckers 12-liter (almost 13 quarts) of ice cream is sold in Vanuatu for 1,780 Vatu (US$ 13.49). Vanuatu’s sole local ice cream manufacturer, Switi, produces a 2-liter (2.12 quarts) pack for 800 Vatu (US$ 6.07).

Call it modern day Pacific Islands-style globalization, but the cheaper ice cream produced and imported from Fiji is swamping the local competition.

There’s no doubting the disadvantages faced by Vanuatu and smaller Pacific Islands States.

But Vanuatu’s Director of Trade, Roy Mickey Joy, says the bottom line is Papua New Guinea and Fiji have succeeded in maximizing opportunities under the Melanesian Spearhead Group’s Trade Agreement (MSGTA).

Like most of the smaller Pacific Islands economies, Vanuatu’s manufacturing sector and base is comparatively limited. It has faced a number of bitter experiences under the MSGTA’s Rules of Origin arrangements.

What Vanuatu’s ice cream manufacturer faces with Fiji and Papua New Guinea is to an extent quantified by Fiji and Papua New Guinea’s expanding trade and economic relationship with Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the world.

There is some degree of resentment within Vanuatu over the comparative advantages being enjoyed by Papua New Guinea and Fiji. But Joy believes that without the MSGTA, Vanuatu would not have been able to access the new export markets it now enjoys.

He explained: "It is only through the MSGTA that we have been able to supply our quality beef to the Pacific Islands, including the Solomon Islands. While there has been trouble in the Solomon Islands, our beef goes regularly."

While Vanuatu’s private sector has made strong submissions to review the country’s position within the MSGTA, Joy says the process is political. Any changes or amendments should be approached through diplomacy.

"If there are any changes, these will need to be done in a way that will not affect the government’s commitments to its treaties," he said.

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

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