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SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, May 27) - The governments of Fiji and
French Polynesia are considering a free trade pact.

"Both our economies have the necessary potential to
increase their trade exchange volume," French Polynesia President Gaston
Flosse told Fiji Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola at an official diner on
Tuesday. "And I know I can count on you, Honourable minister, to help us
better promote our country's products in your own country."

Flosse said he was contemplating a privileged trade exchange
agreement, saying, "If you accept this agreement, I am ready to gradually
lift all customs duties for Fiji goods. And these rates are currently 15 per
cent. We would be ready to lower those, gradually, at a rate of minus 5 percent
per year over a three-year period, until they no longer exist.

"Obviously, we would expect the same in return," he

Once again mentioning French President Jacques Chirac's planned
visit to the Pacific and in particular in French Polynesia late July, Flosse
said the exact date would be July 28.

"We embrace the Pacific spirit, and with this view, we wish
to welcome here in Tahiti all of the South Pacific Islands heads of States and
Governments on this occasion," Flosse said.

Over the past few weeks, Flosse has conveyed invitations to the
whole region for a so-called "France-Pacific" meeting with Chirac in
French Polynesia.

Fiji's Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, has indicated he would
travel to French Polynesia, adding he was excited to meet "the great
leader" when he visits the region.

The Pape'ete meeting is expected to offer an opportunity for
Pacific leaders to partake in a round table and express their views on how they
perceive France's role in this region.

Flosse said earlier there would be opportunities for one-to-one
talks with individual Pacific leaders.

Chirac is also to visit New Caledonia a few days earlier.

"Whatever the distances, the languages, the cultures, the
economic resources or the political systems that differentiate us and which also
make our diversity, we all belong to the great Pacific Islands family,"
Flosse said.

Referring to a forthcoming greater autonomy for his territory,
Flosse said this would particularly concern the capacity for French Polynesia to
manage its own regional and international affairs, "especially with Pacific
island States".

"We will therefore have the power to be more directly
involved in our region's affairs and to forge closer links with our
neighbors," he said.

"And in this context, it is obvious to us that Fiji is a
prominent partner".

Tavola is this week heading an important Fiji trade delegation
in French Polynesia, with the aim to further boost existing exports to the
French Pacific territory.

May 29, 2003

Oceania Flash: E-mail/Courriel: padec@iname.com  

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