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Australia to decide on S-TCF renewal before year-end
Jul '11
An Australian delegation visited Fiji to assess and provide a feedback to its Government in view of the upcoming renewal of the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement (SPARTECA) Textiles, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) scheme, which is due to expire on December 31, 2011.

The visiting team consisted of representatives from the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Department of Innovation, Industry Science and Research, Australian Customs Service and the Australian High Commission.

The team discussed with the Fijian Government, the country's customs department, and the Textile, Clothing and Footwear (TCF) Council of Fiji. The Fiji's TCF industry put forward proposals, both for bringing some improvement to the existing scheme structure, as well as for the extension of the scheme.

The SPARTECA TCF scheme is vital for Fiji's TCF industry as more than 80 percent of Fiji's TCF exports are to Australia. If Australia agrees to suggestions for extension as well improvements in the S-TCF scheme, it will give Fiji an equitable market access that is comparable to countries like Bangladesh.

Least developed countries like Bangladesh, under the revised rule of origin (RoO) agreement are enjoying the benefit of 25 percent local area content clause for the past six months. Under it, any Bangladeshi product that meets the 25 percent criteria gets zero-duty access to the Australian market.

In addition, the increasing local operational cost is another issue that needs to be addressed. The dramatic increase in raw material costs in the international market has negatively impacted Fiji's competitiveness.

The final decision about the extension and improvements in the TCF scheme rests with the Australian Government. While the scheme's objective is to provide Fiji's goods with a preferential duty-free access to Australian market, the actual method of its putting into operation will be the key area of concern to both the parties.

It is expected that the Australian Government would arrive at a decision before year-end or even earlier.

Fibre2fashion News Desk - India

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