22 Apr 2004

Fiji's Mara key to historic trade deal, says EU

10:30 am on 22 April 2004

The European Union says the longtime Fiji prime minister and former president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was the most important person in the negotiations which led to the creation of the Lome Convention in 1975.

The Lome Convention was the first trade and aid agreement under which the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of countries received billions of dollars of aid from the EU, including highly subsidised prices for their sugar exports.

Expressing the EU's deep sorrow at Rau Mara's death, the commission's representative in Fiji, Frans Baan, says his passing marks not just the end of an era for Fiji but for the Pacific region as a whole.

Mr Baan says Ratu Mara was a visionary of regional integration and one of the most prominent figures of 20th century Pacific history.

Ratu Mara played leading roles in the formation of the Pacific Islands Producers' Association, the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation, now the Pacific Forum, the Pacific Islands Development Programme at the East-West Centre in Hawaii and the setting up of the Pacific Forum Line.