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Fiji Conference Calls for Developed Countries to Increase Trade With Poor Nations - 2002-07-19

Leaders from African, Caribbean and Pacific nations meeting in Fiji are calling for developed countries to increase trade with poor nations. The ACP gathering is the first major meeting of developing countries held in the Pacific region.

Relations with Europe have been at the heart of the summit in Nadi, a holiday resort in western Fiji. The leaders of this grouping of African, Caribbean and Pacific nations hope to present a united front in negotiations with the European Union, scheduled for September.

The EU plans a major overhaul of its trading practices with developing countries. It will abandon quota systems on bananas, rice and sugar, all exports of the developing world, and let market conditions set prices.

A multi-billion dollar aid package is promised to soften any economic damage to small farmers in developing countries. The aid, however, is linked to the ability of ACP nations to combat corruption and foster more transparent government.

European Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said at the meeting that Europe is looking for new agreements with ACP members that link trade with aid. Mr. Lamy added that the EU would continue to give developing nations "generous access" to European markets.

The ACP's 78-member-nations include 40 of the world's poorest countries. Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, chairman of the summit, urged the United States to follow the Europeans, and to use its wealth and power to fight poverty in developing nations.

The new president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao, also made a passionate plea for the developed world to write off the billions of dollars of debt owed by ACP members. Global stability, he said, would never be achieved while hundreds-of-millions of people live in poverty.

The summit got off to a disappointing start. On the first day, only 18 out of 78 heads-of-states had turned up. Two of the group's most controversial leaders, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, have been absent.

Human rights advocates have also had their say outside of the summit. They have been protesting abuse of power in Zimbabwe, dumping of nuclear waste in the Pacific and discrimination against women and homosexuals in many countries.