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Pacific heads of mission meet in Canberra



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M E D IA RELEASE MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS ALEXANDER DOWNER

FA41 7 April 1998

PACIFIC HEADS OF MISSION MEET IN CANBERRA

Today I met Australia’s senior diplomatic staff from the Pacific region to review Australia’s relations with Pacific island countries and territories and to discuss the strategic direction of our approach to the region over the next few years.

In my keynote address to the Heads of Mission Meeting, I reviewed Australia’s overall approach to the region, including to the forthcoming South Pacific Forum in Pohnpei in August. The meeting also provided an opportunity to take stock of developments in the regional reform process, particularly in carrying forward the positive outcomes of the Forum Economic Ministers Meeting (FEMM), which Australia hosted in Caims in July last year, ahead of the next FEMM to be held in Fiji in July.

Mr Fischer, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade, Senator Brownhill, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade, and Mrs Sullivan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, are also participating in aspects of the meeting.

The Australian Government has a strong and continuing commitment to the Pacific region. Many of our concerns for the future are shared by the peoples of the region, with whom we have a very broad range of common interests and a shared heritage. Australia attaches considerable importance to long term constructive bilateral relations with the Pacific island countries and territories and will continue to support Pacific island governments in their development of improved economic and resource management policies and good governance practices.

Australia’s Heads of Mission will be considering ways to ensure that Australia’s multilateral efforts, through such organisations as the South Pacific Forum and Pacific Community, continue to be complemented by effective bilateral initiatives developed in consultation with the individual Pacific island countries and territories.

Consultations with business, through a series of meetings and seminars, are an important feature of this gathering, allowing Heads of Mission to brief key business representatives on developments and opportunities across the region and in individual countries.

Australia’s significant aid program to the South Pacific region, totalling over $440 million in 1997/98, will also be discussed in order to ensure it remains effectively targeted at meeting Pacific island countries development needs.

Participants in the meeting include the Heads of Australian diplomatic missions and consular posts in Apia, Honiara, Noumea, Nuku’Alofa, Pohnpei, Port Moresby, Port Vila, Suva, Tarawa and Wellington. Media Inquiries: Innes Willox - (02) 6277 7500 or 0411 414 695

Tony Melville/Kirk Coningham (02) 6261 1555

Media releases and sp eech es are available from DFAT via the internet, http://www.dfat.gov.au/