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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Mar. 4) - The major pact governing relationships between most of the island nations in the Pacific and the European Union will come into force on April 1.

The Cotonou Agreement was signed in the capital of the West African country of Benin two and a half years ago but it took until last week for the necessary number of signatories to ratify it. Some 52 developing countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific; and the fifteen member states of the European Union have signed.

A statement from Brussels says that with the completion of the ratification process, the Agreement will officially come into force on April 1.

The Agreement, which is described as a global partnership between Europe and many of Europe's former colonies covers three aspects of relations - political dialogue, economic and trade cooperation, and development aid. The aid component for the Pacific island nations runs into hundreds of millions of dollars.

March 4, 2003

Radio Australia:

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