12 Aug 2005

Australia accused of increasing poverty in Fiji

10:19 am on 12 August 2005

Fiji's opposition leader has accused Australia of helping to increase poverty in Fiji through its double standards in trade agreements.

Mahendra Chaudhry has told parliament that Australia has failed to listen to Fiji's pleas for the SPARTECA trade agreement to be amended for garment exports to Australia.

At present 50 per cent of the fabric used in such garments have to be bought from Australia at high prices but Fiji has been unsuccessfully asking for this to be reduced to 25 per cent.

Mr Chaudhry says Australia has a huge trade surplus of US$240 million with Fiji because it exports are worth US$450 million while it buys goods worth only US$210 million.

He says Australia has a responsibility to reduce this imbalance by giving Fiji more favourable criteria for the entry of its goods.

But Mr Chaudhry says instead of helping Fiji overcome this massive trade imbalance, Australia is undermining Fiji.

Mr Chaudhry says Australia filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation against the European Union subsidy for Fiji sugar which will lead to price reductions of 42 per cent.

He says while Australia begrudges the EU subsidy that has been paid for Fiji sugar, it has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidise its own sugar industry and spent over US$700 million to help its own garment industry.