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Australia extends trade agreement with Fiji

(Xinhua)

08:26, December 27, 2011

SUVA, Dec. 27 (Xinhua) -- Australia has extended the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Agreement (SPARTECA) on the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) Provision Scheme to December 2014, which Fiji has welcomed.

Under the scheme, Fiji's TCF industry manufactured goods that don't meet the SPARTECA standard can still enter Australia duty free, but under certain conditions.

Fiji's Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola welcomed the announcement on Tuesday, but said the island nation must increase its international competitiveness.

Fiji's textile, clothing and footwear industry cannot rely on Australia or other countries' tariffs or policies for its survival, he added.

He said Fiji's TCF sector needs to implement further reforms to diversify and improve its competitiveness and be sustainable in the long term.

Recently the TCF was concerned with the decision by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to target Fiji's Textile, Clothing and Footwear industries.

The implications of such a campaign could be very serious for the people working in these industries in Fiji, said Fiji Textile Clothing and Footwear Council (TCF) secretary Joe Taoi to media.

The TCF industry will be affected if the ACTU places a ban on Fiji exports as 100 percent of markets are in Australia and New Zealand.

Such a campaign will directly affect the livelihood of 12,000 workforce including support industries, Taoi said.

Of those, 6,000 alone are directly employed by the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Industries.

"Ordinary workers will be affected dramatically," Taoi said.

Overseas media reported in October that the ACTU was going to launch an awareness to ask people not to travel to Fiji and not to buy locally-made garments.

"This is quite discouraging for us at a time when we are working hard to put in place the ideal conditions to improve our exports and secure a sustainable future for our workers here.

"It only serves to cause us more problems; this is the lifeline for thousands of people who depend on our industry to make ends meet.

"We are very discouraged that the ACTU is seeking to destabilize the industry that employs the very people they claim they want to help."

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