3 Oct 2012

Hearing underway into Fiji's duty-free access to US

6:25 pm on 3 October 2012

A hearing is underway into Fiji's duty-free access to the United States.

The US is reviewing Fiji's eligibility for the General System of Preferences after a petition by the federation of trade unions, the AFL-CIO.

Megan Whelan reports.

"Under the GSP program, up to 5,000 types of products from developing countries are eligible for duty-free importation into the United States. In 2007, Fiji exported US$69.7 million to the United States under the programme. The AFL-CIO's petition argues that the Government of Fiji is not taking steps to afford internationally recognised worker rights, including the right of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively. It says since 2009, the government has issued several decrees that curtail fundamental labour rights. The petition urges the US President to suspend the application of the duty-free treatment accorded under the GSP until such time as the Government of Fiji amends its laws to reinstate core labour rights."

In a news release, Fiji's government says it stressed the impact of the loss of GSP eligibilty, which it says would result in 15,000 job losses.

It says, the intention of the Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree is to ensure the viability of specific industries that are vital to the Fiji's economy and GDP.

The government says it does not destroy the trade union movement in Fiji, as has been alleged.