EPA needs to be settled says Fiji PM

Pacific Islands News Association:

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The long standing impasse over the Economic Partnership Agreement needs to be settled once and for all says Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.

Addressing the 102nd African Carribean and Pacific (ACP) Council of Ministers in Belgium this week, Bainimarama says the EPA holds the key for development in ACP countries.

He has called for a high-level ministerial meeting between the Pacific-ACP countries and the EU to settle the impasse once and for all.

The Pacific-ACP has an interim agreement but not a comprehensive agreement.

“Because the EU is adamant that negotiations on a comprehensive EPA cannot be concluded without a review of fisheries conservation and management measures. Whereas our view is that this issue – however important – should not stand in the way of a full agreement being reached.

“Fiji believes that we urgently need to find a solution to this impasse that takes into account the commitments that we have made on fisheries conservation and the progress made thus far. We also need a high-level Ministerial meeting between the Pacific-ACP and EU not only on this issue but the issue of Papua New Guinea’s withdrawal from the comprehensive EPA negotiations.

“Because of this impasse, The Pacific ACP States are effectively the only ACP States left without a comprehensive EPA. Or as some of my officials describe it – “we are EPA orphans”. And from our standpoint, we are being unfairly disadvantaged and our development impeded.

“As you know, the intention of the EU’s EPAs with the ACP was to continue its historical trading relations with these regions after the expiration of the Cotonou Agreement. It is all about development. And when one region misses out because the negotiations are dragging on for too long, it obviously has an adverse effect on nations such as Fiji.

“We have produced a detailed matrix of where any development assistance would be targeted under a full EPA. We are especially looking to these initiatives to build our nation’s trade capacity, address our trade-related infrastructure needs and all other issues related to the implementation of a full EPA. So there is a great deal at stake here. And I have appealed to the EU Commissioners and other officials I met here to assist us in facilitating a speedy solution to this impasse,” Bainimarama told delegates.

The EPA was to be in effect in 2012 but three years down the line, negotiations continue..

Read story: Pacific Islands News Association

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