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Tiny Pacific nation Vanuatu to join WTO

Vanuatu's economy relies heavily on tourism receipts  

By CNN's Geoff Hiscock
Asia business editor

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- The small South Pacific nation of Vanuatu will join China and Taiwan as new members of the World Trade Organization at the WTO ministerial conference which opens in Qatar on Friday.

Vanuatu, about 2500 km northeast of Sydney, Australia, has a population of 193,000 and per capita GNP of $1180.

Vanuatu concluded six years of negotiations with the WTO on October 29, and the agreement will be adopted formally at the Doha meeting.

While the impending accession of China and Taiwan has dominated discussion of the WTO's expanding membership, Director-General Mike Moore said Vanuatu's determination to join the WTO showed it was an organization relevant both to big and small economies.

In a statement on November 2, Moore said that as an LDC (Least Developed Country), Vanuatu could bring to the organization the "concerns and needs of a small trading country".

Reliant on tourism, agricultural exports

Vanuatu, formerly known as the New Hebrides and jointly administered by British and French administrations until it gained independence in 1980, relies on tourism, financial services and agricultural exports such as copra, beef, kava and cocoa.

Its main trading partners are Australia, which supplies 38 percent of Vanuatu's imports, and Japan, which takes about 24 percent of its exports. Australia is also its largest aid donor.

Vanuatu could soon gain another revenue stream, with the revelation last week by Australian media company Publishing & Broadcasting that it will set up an online gaming business, Crown Online, in Vanuatu in January.

PBL, the flagship of Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer, said it was opting for Vanuatu because Australian regulatory hurdles were too difficult. PBL controls the Melbourne-based Crown Casino.

Two other South Pacific nations, Tonga and Samoa, have also applied for WTO membership and their applications are being considered, along with 27 other countries. The WTO has 142 members.


• Welcome to Vanuatu
• Vanuatu National Tourism Office

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