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PM to attend Pacific Islands Forum

13 August 2001 Media Statement

Prime Minister Helen Clark today announced details of her visit this week to Nauru for the annual Pacific Islands Forum meeting.

The meeting opens on Thursday and continues until Saturday evening. A group of more than 30 Pacific Island leaders, staff and officials will join Helen Clark in making the return trip to Nauru in an RNZAF Hercules C130.

Helen Clark said the region continues to grapple with the economic aftermath of events in Fiji and the Solomon Islands. Papua New Guinea has experienced political volatility, while the host nation is facing critical economic and environmental issues.

"Leaders will be looking forward to the elections in Fiji from 25 August to 1 September. If these are confirmed as free and fair and the outcome is upheld, Fiji will have managed a return to democratically elected government," Helen Clark said.

"Fiji is being assisted by New Zealand and other donors to ensure that its electoral system works well, and has agreed that monitors from the UN and the Commonwealth can observe the elections.

"Ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands last year is estimated to have put economic progress in the country back by at least ten years. There is a need to continue engagement and assistance for the rebuilding of the Solomon Islands.

"Environmental issues will also be high on the agenda. The successful outcome of the Kyoto Protocol in Bonn will be welcomed, and we must encourage the United States to become a full participant in the process.

"I will also be wanting to talk to my colleagues about ways in which we can progress moves to protect whales in the South Pacific, given the failure of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary to gain International Whaling Commission (IWC) support in London last month. Action by individual Forum members to institute a whale sanctuary within their own EEZs may be a stepping-stone to increasing protection of the breeding grounds of the great whales in the South Pacific.

"Fisheries management, and nuclear and disarmament issues will continue to require the attention of leaders, as will steps to strengthen financial institutions in Forum countries to prevent them being used for money laundering and illegal tax practices."
Helen Clark said that two new regional trade arrangements would also be discussed.

"The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), and the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), were finalised at the meeting of Forum Trade Ministers in Apia in June, and have been referred to leaders for approval.

"PICTA provides for a free trade agreement on goods between Forum Island Countries. PACER is an umbrella agreement which also involves New Zealand and Australia, and which sets principles and objectives to guide future trade and economic arrangements.

"New Zealand has allocated an initial $250,000 for technical assistance under PACER," Helen Clark said.


ENDS

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