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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, July 3) - The employment level in Fiji's garment industry has dropped from more than 18,000 people to only about 8,000, says Fiji Public Service Association general secretary Rajeshwar Singh.

Speaking at the Pacific Co-operation Foundation in New Zealand on Friday, he said 5,000 more people could be employed in the industry if the rules of origin requirements were changed in the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement - SPARTECA.

Fiji would like to see the Agreement reviewed but to get this the backlog of our island neighbors and the support of Australia and New Zealand governments is needed.

What, in fact the industry wants is to at least have the same access that Australia and New Zealand give to least developed countries and that is to allow Fiji to use 25 percent local content in our exports rather than the 50 percent stated under the Agreement, he said.

He said Fiji's island neighbors did not have garment industries so they did not care about the issue.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji’s garment industry has seen some hard times these past years, most recently with a substantial drop in production last year.]

Highlighting a similar trade crisis facing the sugar industry, Singh said the reform of the sugar protocol and the expected decrease in European Union prices by 36 percent in four years time, was of immense concern to Fiji.

Singh said the Government realized the immense adverse impact the changes would have without appropriate accompanying measures, not only with support from the European Union but other donors and their initiatives.

The future of the Fiji sugar industry will be based on three main products - raw sugar, molasses to be transformed into ethanol, and electricity through co-generation mainly bagasse, Singh told the meeting.

July 4, 2006

Fiji Times Online: .

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