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Plan Spells More Mutton Flaps and Conflict

Tuesday 22 March, 2005

Plan Spells More Mutton Flaps and Conflict for Pacific

The push for free trade in the Pacific contained in the Draft Plan of the Pacific Islands Forum risks exacerbating poverty, inequality, and conflict in the Pacific, says Peter Zwart of the Catholic agency, Caritas.

Caritas has expressed concern at the provisions which push ahead free trade negotiations both among Pacific Island countries themselves, and between this group and Australia and New Zealand.

“Pacific countries experience a particular vulnerability given their isolation, high cost of transport, small population and land mass, and a fragile ecological resource base. The idea there could ever be a fair and level playing field between Pacific Island countries and Australia or New Zealand is not only ludicrous, it is also dangerous,” says Mr Zwart.

“The experience of New Zealand in trade liberalisation has been a substantial rise in poverty and inequality. The same experience in the Pacific would deepen poverty in both urban and isolated or rural areas and add to existing social tensions. It would also lead inevitably to increased foreign ownership of the natural resource base and production, which in the Pacific has been one of the most persistent causes of conflict wherever you look, from West Papua, Bougainville and PNG, Fiji, or Solomon Islands.”

“Some proposals such as that to help reduce the cost of imported foods appear directly designed to undermine both the position of Pacific farmers growing traditional foods, and to deepen the dependence of Pacific people on less nutritious and unhealthy imported foods.”

“It is a recipe for more rural poverty and mutton flaps for the Pacific, with the associated health problems that come with them,” said Mr Zwart.

Background Information The Pacific Plan has been released by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for general consultation. The Secretary General of the Forum, Australian, Greg Urwin, is currently in New Zealand where he attended a consultation meeting in Wellington today and will continue this process in Auckland tomorrow. The Plan can be found at the following link: www.mfat.govt.nz.

ENDS

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