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October 05, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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Fiji's Attorney General and Minister for Industry and Trade, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, today congratulated Papua New Guinea on its move to remove duties from most of the products listed on the country's negative list, ahead of the timeframe prescribed in the MSG Trade Agreement.

He said the government has been calling on all member nations to fully implement the MSG Trade Agreement.

“We are pleased that PNG has heeded our call, as this will bring tangible benefits to Fijian exporters and will create jobs in Fiji.  It will also benefit Papua New Guineans, who will be able to enjoy quality Fijian products at competitive prices," he said in a statement.

“This has been a positive move by the PNG, which shows the true spirit of MSG. It has also signalled to other Pacific Islands Countries the commitment MSG countries have toward regional trade and economic integration.”

The Melanesian Spearhead Group, in 2005, revised the MSG Trade Agreement in order to remove all barriers to trade in the sub-region. It, however, allowed members to maintain tariffs on selected products (in a so-called negative list), which is an impediment to full trade liberalization.

“PNG is a lucrative and rapidly growing market in the region, with a total population of more than 7 million, and offers many exciting new prospects for Fijian businesses and new opportunities for job creation."

Fiji’s annual exports to PNG are approximately $7.6million (Fiji’s imports approximately $4.2 million from PNG annually), the majority of which will now enter PNG duty free.

PNG has maintained tariffs only on mackerel, salt and sugar, while the rest of the more than 400 items in their negative list have become duty free with the recent gazettal.

“The Ministry of Industry and Trade will work closely with the Fijian industries, to enable them to fully understand the rules and requirements of the MSG Trade Agreement so that more trade can take place under the Agreement,” said the Minister.

The landmark Memorandum of Understanding on the movement of skilled labour has given further impetus towards the sub-region achieving common economic union status.

There are tremendous benefits to be gained with the movement of skilled personnel in the MSG region, by creating opportunities for employment and meeting particular needs for skilled labour.

By Reginald Chandar

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