15 Mar 2005

Pacific island economies facing crisis because of unrealistic WTO policies

4:40 pm on 15 March 2005

There are predictions that Pacific island economies will collapse if the World Trade Organisation does not recognise that they cannot compete with bigger, more developed countries.

The president of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce, Taito Waradi, made the comments after the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, said the WTO's unrealistic policies were creating a crisis in the garment industry.

Up to 4,000 of the existing 12,000 garment jobs are expected to be lost when the U.S. ends its quota system at the end of this year, under WTO rules.

Mr Waradi says the private sector is now taking action in order to ally with the government over the issue.

"The idea is that we should form a Pacific Island Chamber of Commerce to supplement or complement or to support, the government team that normally takes the lead in negotiating this WTO agreement and the provisions within."

Mr Waradi says the WTO must be made to realise that there is no level playing field and countries with limited resources need some concessions.

He says a meeting will be held in Suva in May to form a reconstituted Pacific Island Chamber of Commerce.