16 Mar 2005

Call for Fiji to rethink its commitment to World Trade Organisation

8:48 pm on 16 March 2005

Fiji's garment industry is backing calls for the private sector to be involved in negotiations with the World Trade Organisation in order to strike a better deal.

The president of the Textile, Clothing and Footwear council, Mark Halabe, says 4,000 jobs will be lost this year due to a WTO ruling that the U.S. must end its quota system.

He says Fiji should rethink its commitment to the WTO if its rulings continue to have such a negative impact.

Mr Halabe says he supports a proposal from the Fiji Chamber of Commerce that the private sector take an active role in WTO negotiations because he believes they could help achieve a more commercial agreement than public servants.

"Good as they may be in their own bureaucratic way, they really have very little understanding of the commerce reality that we have to deal with on a day to day basis. So, obviously an input of expertise from industry would certainly help getting a more practical and pragmatic agreement."

Mr Halabe's concerns follow those voiced by the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, about what he calls unrealistic WTO policies and the president of the Fiji Chamber of Commerce saying small island economies will collapse from the demands.