Small Islands Claim Preferential Trade Status
in Lead-up to Mauritius International Meeting

New York, 30 April 2004 -- At a high-level one-hour debate this afternoon at the United Nations in preparation for the Mauritius International Meeting on small island nations (scheduled for 30 August to 3 September), several ministers and ambassadors from the islands advocated for the need to recognize small island developing States (SIDS) as a special case in the field of trade.

The Foreign Minister of the upcoming conference’s host country, Mr. Jaya Krishna Cuttaree, told the participants of the Commission on Sustainable Development -- attended this year by 100 ministers -- that colonization had led many SIDS to become single commodity producers and single market exporters, and that many islands increasingly depend upon tourism as their major source of revenue. He also noted the higher cost of transport for islands due to their remoteness, and their heavy dependence on imports. “Such factors combined with the limited ability to benefit from economies of scale adversely affect our ability to compete with other producers, including many of the developing countries,” stated the Mauritian Minister, speaking on behalf of the 43 members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). Other island representatives, including the Bahamas, Barbados and Cape Verde, also emphasized the need for special treatment for SIDS for trade.

Ambassador Mahon Hayes of Ireland stressed on behalf of the European Union that the outcome of the Mauritius Meeting should focus on implementation and action. He underlined small islands’ vulnerability to climate change. “Any rise in sea level will have significant and profound effects on their economies, environments and living conditions; the very survival of certain low-lying countries will be threatened,” he said, and asserted that the European Union is “committed to the swift implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.” Papua New Guinea’s representative also called for its quick ratification.

The Ambassador of the Pacific atoll of Tuvalu, Mr. Enele Sopoaga, declared: “For the Mauritius International Meeting to have any practical meaning in this regard, it must result in pragmatic and doable actions that can add value and make a real difference on the ground in Tuvalu and SIDS, supported by leadership, and commitment of resources to address the SIDS vulnerabilities especially caused by challenges of isolation and fragmentation, and to climate change and sea level rise.”

United States Ambassador Sichan Siv emphasized that the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action needs to be reviewed, “not renegotiated.” He noted his delegation’s preference for a short, focused negotiating document, like the one it submitted prior to the 14-16 April pre-Mauritius talks, held at the beginning of the Commission session. Mr. Siv said that he hopes that the Mauritius Meeting will put emphasis on good governance and partnerships, and insisted that it should benefit from the involvement of the business sector.

The Secretary-General of the Mauritius International Meeting, Mr. Anwarul Chowdhury, expressed optimism for the upcoming informal negotiations scheduled for 17-19 May in New York. He stated that the Mauritius negotiations should focus on partnerships, prioritize issues and produce an efficient follow-up mechanism, if possible on an annual basis. Mr. Chowdhury also suggested that regional institutions like CARICOM (the Caribbean Community and Common Market) and the Pacific Forum should play a greater role in the implementation process.

A Webcast of this session is available

Press contact: Francois Coutu, U.N. Department of Public Information, Tel.: (212) 963-9495 or (917) 815-8176,
e-mail: coutu@un.org