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News Release November 6, 2002

An agreement to set up a single aviation market in the Pacific could become a reality in mid-2003, following negotiations in Tonga between senior aviation officials from the 14 Forum Island Countries.

The final text of the Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement (PIASA) will now be recommended to Forum Island governments for endorsement.

The successful conclusion of PIASA negotiations fulfils a Ministerial decision made at the Forum Aviation Policy Meeting in Apia, Samoa in September 2001, where Forum Aviation Ministers agreed to examine the concept of a single aviation market and consider the necessary means to implement it.

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr Noel Levi, CBE, says that the PIASA initiative will encourage the integration of air services in island countries to fully develop, become more efficient and be able to participate effectively in a challenging and rapidly changing global aviation environment.

"APEC has a similar multilateral air services agreement which has clear implications for the Pacific region's own air services agreement PIASA. Given that APEC countries are the source of more than three-quarters of trade and tourism for the FICs, it is important that liberalization continues to proceed in parallel and is consistent with the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA)," Mr Levi said.

Expected benefits include:

· Increased Forum island countries airline access to air routes between FICs

· Expansion and efficiency improvements for FIC airlines

· Facilitation of innovative routes and schedules to service multi-destination tourism

· Greater use of code sharing and alliances between airlines

· Greater cargo options for exporters and importers, and

· Cost savings to airlines which can be passed on to travelers as lower air travel costs

"The creation of a single aviation market," Mr Levi said, "is a significant step in the increasing integration of economic activities in the Pacific, along with the implementation of the PICTA."

The PIASA negotiations are facilitated and serviced by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

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