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Australia Resumes Trade Aid To Fiji

Issue No: 285 13 December 2000

Australia has decided to enter into a successor agreement to the Import Credit Scheme which has expired some months ago.

Under the scheme, garments produced in Fiji can be imported by Australian companies and get an import credit. This encourages Australian companies to import garments from Fiji. In essence, the scheme is a trade aid to Fiji since it costs Australian taxpayers to provide the subsidy. The scheme had expired in September this year. It was renewed last year for one last time. When the People's Coalition government was in power, Australia was very reluctant to renew the scheme. But with the illegal regime holding on to power through the force of arms, the Australian Government has decided to renew it without much consideration to its warnings to the elected government last year, and the illegality of the current regime.

Australia announced yesterday that it was entering into the new clothing trade and production deal with Fiji, "in recognition of" Fiji's "move to restore democratic rule". Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stated that due to the interim government's promise to hold a democratic election by March 2002, Australia would introduce the new textiles trade agreement, which is expected to be within the framework of SPARTECA.

Downer has obviously not been advised by its Fiji office on the regime's reluctance to re-establish democracy in the country. Latest has been the concern expressed by the Special Envoy of the Commonwealth Justice Pius Langa at the regime's reluctance to re-establish democracy.

That Australian taxpayers' money is being used to prop up an illegal regime in Fiji raises serious concerns about the Australian government's commitment to democracy and human rights. Australia is Fiji's largest trade partner accounting for over 40% of all Fiji's imports. A Fijian trade unionist believes that Australia's economic interests have limited its concerns for democracy in the country.

END 13 December 2000

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