Fijian PM urges EU to be flexible in finalising EPA ?

Pacific Islands News Association:

Monday, 15 June 2015

Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama Monday called on the European Union (EU) to be more flexible in resolving the stalled Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Pacific countries.

While opening the Joint ACP – EU Parliamentary Assembly in Suva today, Bainimarama said the impasse must be broken.

“We are now at a crossroads. It is time for the EU and the ACP to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement that is equitable and fair but that has been so long in the making and still eludes us. We must break the current impasse so we can go beyond 2020, strengthen our relationship and benefit mutually from those renewed ties.

“We ask Europe to be more flexible in these ongoing negotiations. And in turn, the ACP countries must do more themselves to implement the necessary reforms. Unity and solidarity must be our guiding principles. We must speak with one voice in global forums to have our message heard. Because only by doing so can we hope to address the collective challenges that face us all,” Bainimarama told delegates

“While we are at one on the importance of climate change, Europe and the ACP countries have a number of obvious challenges in our relationship. So I would also appeal to the European MPs in the room to give their utmost attention to these challenges – such as the EPA - and gain a greater appreciation of the dynamics from our perspective.

“We especially look to the EU and the rest of the developed world to give us a fairer trading environment. One which accepts that the harsh realities of the global marketplace, always a lot harsher for those hundreds of millions of ordinary men and women struggling to produce goods and services and for whom ready markets are not available,” said Bainimarama.

The European Union has proposed the suspension for the EPA negotiation for three years with the Pacific until the issue of conservation measures on fisheries are resolved.

In response to Bainimarama’s call the Co-chair of the EU- ACP Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Louis Michel said he is very supportive of the opinion that the European Union must be flexible in concluding EPA with ACP countries.

“I always defended the idea that EPA has to be development minded and development oriented. I agree with those who are saying that the European Commission was rather tough in these negotiation and they didn’t really take into account the fact that the EPA must have a development objective.

“We will try to push for the European to be flexible as possible but at the same time, if countries want to benefit from fruits of globalization, they have to build a fiscal system based on the contribution of the people, he Louis Mitchell said.

Meanwhile, Bainimarama also took the opportunity to thank the European Union for taking a lead role in the fight against climate change in the lead up to the Paris Climate change talks in December.

“I want to warmly thank the countries of the European Union for facing up to that moral challenge and taking a lead on climate change. The EU has committed itself to reducing carbon emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. And you are leading the global movement for change in a manner that has commanded respect and gratitude from Fiji and other small island nations.

“In contrast to some of our bigger neighbours in the Pacific, you are proving to be a development partner in the true sense of the word. In that you are putting the interests of more vulnerable nations such as ours before the interests of some of your carbon polluting industries.

“With so many members of the European Parliament in the room today, can I extend to each and every one of you our sincere thanks for the principled stand that you and your nations have taken. Fiji seeks your continuing support in the lead up to the Paris Summit. And especially your individual efforts to highlight the plight we face and do whatever you can to make our concerns known in Europe and elsewhere .

“We have just less than six months collectively to get the world to realise that the time for merely talking is over. This is the time for concrete action. And if the global community again baulks at decisive action, history and the generations to come will judge those developed nations which didn’t act extremely harshly for their selfishness and stupidity,” he said.

The co- chair of the ACP - EU joint Parliamentary Assembly, Jamaican Fitz Jackson also highlighted the plight faced my Small Islands developing states on the effects of climate change.

"Our presence here should help us to appreciate the importance of supporting the development efforts of this and other countries in the region and the need to preserve their livelihoods and cultures. We hope that all of us will speak up for all the Pacific Islands and the threats that they face from the effects of climate change such as rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

“For this reason, the Assembly deliberately chose to discuss some topics that are of general relevance to all ACP states but of particular interest to this region, such as biodiversity, renewable energy, fisheries, maritime security and piracy, and seabed minerals.

“These issues are not merely trade or economic imperatives; they are about the livelihoods and sustainable development and future prospects of small island developing states, SIDS as we now call them. As an example, just ask yourselves what the fate of this beautiful country and people would be without the EU market for its sugar? On the other hand, the impact of human activity in the oceans, whether it is nuclear testing or overfishing, will impact on the livelihoods of the people of the Pacific.

“Yesterday, I was part of the group that visited a fish processing plant, which is just one example of the capacity of our countries to supply products of the highest quality to world markets, and in the process, generating employment and revenue for the country that is more sustainable than aid. But such industries can only survive and prosper if the rules and regulations governing world trade are favourable. Speaking directly to our EU colleagues – I would appeal to you to look closely at the regulations and legislative proposals that come before you, and ensure that they are in harmony with the long-term development objectives of developing countries, especially SIDS, said Jackson.

He said the JPA is uniquely placed to be the advocate of development for the peoples of the South and the North.

"Together, we can build on the positive attributes of our shared history to contribute to the attainment of global objectives of sustainable development for the mutual benefit of the people that we represent in our respective regions and countries of the ACP and Europe. Ours is a platform that we can use to engage the world on the fact that development is not a zero sum game; it can and MUST be a win-win cause," he said. 

Read story: Pacific Islands News Association

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