MELANESIAN GROUP BACKS FIJI BID FOR TRADE TALKS

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Fiji excluded from PACER negotiations by forum

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, August 24, 2009) – Melanesian Spearhead Group country members agree that Fiji should be included in PACER-Plus trade negotiations.

Ahead of the Melanesian Spearhead Group Foreign Ministers meeting in Suva today, country members said Fiji should be included despite its suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum.

Speaking on behalf of the MSG last night, Papua New Guinea’s Rima Ravusiro, who is the secretary, said it was part of their Vanuatu, PNG and Solomon communiqué before the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Cairns last month.

"MSG leaders believe Fiji should be part of the PACER-Plus discussion taking into account their legal opinion," Mr. Ravusiro said.

Fiji was suspended from the Forum in March for not meeting a forum deadline on holding elections.

It was than excluded from negotiations on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER)-Plus.

However, Mr Ravusiro said there had been positive development shown by Australia and New Zealand with regards to their stand against Fiji.

"At least there has been some improvement shown after they considered Fiji to be part of the negotiation on the two regional trade agreements," Mr Ravusiro said.

Fiji says it has every legal right to be part of the negotiations meetings and that its role in such trade agreements is separate to its Forum status.

Australia, New Zealand and Samoa have led the push to exclude Fiji from negotiations despite criticism of this.

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