FIJI, PNG TRADE WAR BREWS OVER CANNED MEAT

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 21) – The tariff on Fiji’s Islands Beef brand of canned meat could be increased to 55 per cent in reply to the country’s refusal to allow Papua New Guinea’s Ox & Palm into their markets.

This is one of two measures being considered by Trade and Industry Minister Paul Tiensten as the "corned beef war" between the two Melanesian states spilled over into the New Year and threatened to sour relations.

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Porgera-Lagaip MP Kappa Yarka questioned why Island Beef was sold in PNG shopping outlets while Ox & Palm produced by Central Province-based Hugos Cannery continued to be shunned by Fiji authorities.

He said the PNG product was of high quality and should be traded freely as Fiji and PNG were signatories to a trade agreement between the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) states.

"I also understand the issue is to be resolved by the WTO (World Trade Organisation) but it’s cumbersome," Mr Yarka said. "So, if this is what the Fijian Government is trying to do, has the Government got any plans to counter the Fijians?"

Mr Tiensten said it was time the PNG Government took action despite concerted efforts by the two sides during the last MSG summit in Goroka to bury the hatchet.

"What Fiji is doing right now is breaching WTO rules, what they are doing is discriminatory, what they are doing is unfair to us," Mr Tiensten said.

The sticky issue is the import permit in Fiji which requires that meat used in PNG’s Ox & Palm product be sourced from Australia and New Zealand. Mr Tiensten told Parliament that was difficult as the country strived to grow its local beef industry.

February 22, 2006

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/

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