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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 20, 2002 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was applauded today for a United Nations General Assembly address during which he highlighted environmental and oceans issues, the Ministry of Information reported.

Heads of delegations from Asian and Pacific countries and from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of nations came to congratulate him, the ministry said.

Many of the delegations -- especially those from the Pacific Islands Forum -- appreciated his clear and forceful enunciation of the concern of Pacific Island countries regarding their ocean and marine environment, it said.

In his address, Mr. Qarase once again condemned those countries that were engaged in trans-shipping nuclear active material through the Pacific Ocean.

He has raised these and other environmental concerns in a number of recent international meetings.

Mr. Qarase also criticized distant water fishing nations for their indiscriminate use of drift nets in exploiting the Pacific Ocean’s rich tuna resources.

He emphasized that the Pacific Ocean’s tuna fishery was the world’s largest remaining fishery. The Pacific Island nations were deeply concerned that commercial exploitation of these resources should be done on a sustainable basis, he said.

Mr. Qarase praised the United States for its regional fisheries agreement with Pacific Island countries.

But he expressed disappointment at the low level of fisheries access fees that other nations were paying to Pacific Islands nations for access to their deep-sea fisheries resources.

He said 95% of the region’s tuna resources were taken out of the region by deep-sea fishing fleets. Yet the fisheries access fee paid to Pacific islands nations was in many cases less than 3% of the commercial value of the harvested tuna resources.

On trade and development issues, the Prime Minister called for equality of opportunities between developed and developing nations.

He said that while the World Trade Organization was pressing for the ideal of free trade, the reality was some developed nations themselves were maintaining trade barriers like tariffs and subsidies.

These severely eroded the competitive advantage of developing countries in their efforts to secure market access to developed countries for their exports, he said.

On behalf of the ACP group, Mr Qarase welcomed the commencement of formal negotiations with the European Union (EU) on the 27th of this month for new economic partnership agreements under the Cotonou Agreement.

Mr Qarase urged EU member countries to incorporate in these partnership agreements the various undertakings that they had made at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.

Mr. Qarase is president of the 78-nation ACP group.

On the Asia-Pacific region, Mr. Qarase warmly welcomed the initiative by Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to undertake a peace mission to North Korea.

Mr. Qarase also welcomed the increased role and involvement of China in the Pacific Islands. He called on China and Taiwan to resolve their differences through dialogue and developing a common vision.

Following his address, Mr. Qarase and Mrs. Leba Qarase, together with the accompanying Fiji delegation, were guests at a luncheon hosted by Tonga's Prime Minister, Prince ‘Ulukalala Lavaka Ata.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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