30 Dec 2002

Fiji will defend its sugar industry in WTO

6:44 pm on 30 December 2002

Fiji has been given the go ahead by the European Union to become third party to hearings at the World Trade Organisation on Australia and Brazil's challenge against the EU sugar regime.

Fijilive reports that the EU has also promised Fiji that it will recieve financial help to get legal advice and for representation at the WTO proceedings.

It says Brazil and Australia want African, Carribean and Pacific sugar producing countries to sell their produce at world market prices and not at prices set by the EU regime.

Currently, Fiji gets special quotas and sells its sugar in EU markets at almost three times the world market price.

Fiji's sugar export earnings in the last five years was over 465 million US dollars and 93 million dollars per year in foreign exchange.

EU sources say the Australian-Brazil challenge seeks to erode the EU's special price for its sugar imports from ACP countries and a reduction in preferential quotas.

Fiji's Ambassador to the EU, Isikeli Mataitoga says that Fiji's economy and 200-thousand jobs in the sugar industry are now at risk.

However, Jagannath Sami, the Sugar Cane Growers Council Chief Executive says that the WTO outcome would not affect Fiji drastically as price reductions would be slow, giving affected countries time to adjust.