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9th Pacific Roundtable on WTO, Regional Trade

3 July 2006 Press release

Opening of the 9th Roundtable Meeting for Pacific Island Countries on WTO and Regional Trade Agreements

Jim Anderton opened the 9th Round Table meeting for Pacific Island Countries on WTO and regional trade agreement provisions in Wellington today. He stressed that although currently only three Pacific Island Countries are WTO members, it is important to become part of the multilateral trade system.

"These rules affect the world we trade in and limit what we can do in bilateral or regional agreements with WTO members. For New Zealand and for the Pacific Islands, rules on agriculture and fisheries trade are of particular importance to our economies. The Pacific’s tuna fisheries are the largest and most valuable in the world," Jim Anderton said.

"The Island countries are currently in negotiation with the EU on an Economic Partnership Agreement. We have a Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations that provides for future negotiations on Forum-wide trade and economic integration, with the sustainable development of Pacific Island economies as its prime objective. It is important that whatever is done in this context encourages economic growth, investment and employment in the region.

"Pacific Islands' fisheries are the most, if not the only, significant economic resource offering real potential for sustainable economic development. We are at a critical point with respect to the management of the fisheries resources of the Pacific, and the need for strong regional cooperation amongst Pacific Island coastal states, New Zealand included, has never been greater.

"Developing fishing industries in the Pacific are currently competing with heavily subsidised foreign fishing fleets putting us at a serious disadvantage right here in our own backyards.

"New Zealand has put in $1 million to date and is looking to further contribute to the Regional Trade Facilitation Programme, which focuses on quarantine, customs and standards and compliance – which are being managed by the Secretariat for the South Pacific Commission, the Oceania Customs organisation and the Forum Secretariat.

"Last year, New Zealand appointed a dedicated Pacific officer in MAF Biosecurity and this has led to the development of a number of Import Health Standards and the certification of heat treatment plants to open possibilities for the export of Pacific Island produce to New Zealand. These are the sorts of results that can be achieved through effective work on trade facilitation," Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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