The Fijian garment industry has been given new hope after enduring months of sanctions imposed by Australia, the major buyer of its apparel products.

Fiji, which employs around 18,000 workers in the industry, has had a turbulent year politically, but a new High Court ruling could pave the way to the withdrawal of the sanctions.

A judgement by the Fijian High Court has ruled President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's government legitimate and the decision has encouraged the interim Government, led by Laisenia Qarase, to hold new elections by March 2002 - in accordance with the Australian government's requirements.

This would allow the Australian Government to implement the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-Operation Agreement (SPARTECA), which gives Fiji preferential access to Australia's markets.