MSG continues public support for Fiji | Pacific Beat

MSG continues public support for Fiji

MSG continues public support for Fiji

Posted 25 August 2009, 16:48 AEST

The Melanesian Spearhead Group has given its support to Fiji's inclusion in PACER Plus free trade agreement negotiations.

The support was given after a meeting of MSG Foreign ministers in Suva. But that support is in conflict with the position of three of its members, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, which have given their support to the Pacific Islands' Forum for Fiji to be barred from taking part in talks on the proposed agreement.

Presenter: Pacific Correspondent Campbell Cooney

Speaker: Director of the Melanesia Program at Australia's Lowy Institute for International Policy, Jenny Hayward Jones

At the end of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' meeting in Cairns earlier this month, it was announced they had agreed Fiji would not be allowed to take part in negotiations on the the propsed PACER Plus, regional free trade agreement. Making the announcement, incoming Forum Chairman, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Fiji would be kept informed about the progress of the proposed discussions.

But the Forum leader's united position on Fiji and free trade flew, and its continued suspension from the regional group differed significantly from the member nations of the Melansesian Spearhead Group Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea and Fiji. Just weeks before the Cairns meeting, they had met in Port Vila and agreed they would be pushing for the lifting of Fiji's suspension from the forum, and just days before travelling to Cairns, Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Doctor Derek Sikua voiced his support for Fiji being part of PACER Plus.

After that meeting Fiji remains suspended and isn't part of free trade negotiations, a position the leaders' meeting communique says is unanimous.

This week Melanesian Spearhead Group Foreign Affairs Ministers, and their representatives have been in Suva discussing trade. PACER Plus was not the only issue.

But while their leaders gave support to the Forum's position, in what looks like an about face, the Foreign Ministers released a statement which states they are opposed to the potential economic fragmentation of the Pacific and the MSG Group through Fiji's exclusion from regional trade related meetings. Vanuatu's Foreign Minister Joe Natuman spoke at a Press Conference attended by Fiji TV.

The Director of the Melanesia Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, Jenny Hayward Jones says the MSG's statement is unlikely to change anything.

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