China, Pacific island countries discuss cooperation at forum meeting

The first Ministerial Meeting of the China-Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum opened Wednesday morning in Nadi.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Michael Somare and heads of state or government of some other island countries attended the opening ceremony.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao congratulated the convention of the first ministerial meeting of the Forum. The Chinese premier said it is a strategic decision, not a diplomatic expediency, for China to foster friendship and cooperation with the Pacific island countries.

He also expressed confidence that the Forum, a landmark event in the relations between China and Pacific island countries, will set a new model for South-South cooperation.

Wen listed some measures China has decided to take to meet the current needs of economic development of Pacific island countries, including:

-- To provide RMB 3 billion yuan of preferential loans in the next three years to boost cooperation;

-- To give zero-tariff treatment to the majority of exports to China from the least developed countries in the region that have diplomatic ties with China. China will cancel their debts that became mature at the end of 2005 and extend by ten years the payment of debts contracted by other island countries that became mature at the end of 2005;

-- To provide training to 2,000 government officials and technical staff from the island countries over the next three years to assist them in capacity building;

-- To formally approve Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and the Federated States of Micronesia as destinations for Chinese tourists. Thus, all the seven island countries having diplomatic ties with China are now approved tourist destinations for Chinese citizens.

Ministers of China and 10 Pacific island countries, namely Australia, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Micronesia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu, participated in the meeting.

Source: Xinhua

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