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Sayed-Khaiyum at meeting of trade ministerse12/9/2013

Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum will attend a meeting of regional trade ministers in Solomon Islands on Tuesday to stress the importance of Pacific unity in trade discussions with the European Union (EU).

The Special Pacific ACP (PACP) Ministerial Meeting will be attended by trade ministers and representatives from 14 PACP countries to prepare for their discussions with the EU’s Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, on the 12th of December in Honiara.

The Attorney-General said that the need for PACP nations to stand together to negotiate a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the EU is stronger than ever.

In October 2013, the EU suspended CEPA negotiations after Papua New Guinea (PNG) withdrew from the discussions. PNG has already ratified the Interim EPA and has been able to utilise the agreement to create investment and growth in its canned fish sector. It did not want these benefits to be reduced by the EU as a result of CEPA negotiations.

The rest of the PACP states are hoping to get the same benefits under the CEPA for fresh and frozen fish, however the EU is demanding a number conditions that make this difficult to achieve. These demands have also led PNG to withdraw because they may restrict the nation’s canned fish exports.

The EU said without PNG the CEPA talks could not continue and that PACP countries would instead need to sign the Interim EPA, which is detrimental to their interests.

“The Pacific region must not allow this setback to drive a wedge between us,” the Attorney-General said.

“Approaching negotiations as a unified bloc is still the best option because it gives the region the maximum leverage to achieve the most favourable trade agreement. Pacific unity is crucial for the conclusion of an EPA that meets the development aspirations of the region,” he continued.

The Attorney-General added that although Fiji has the biggest stake in the EPA negotiations given the size of its trade links with the EU, it wants to proceed with the rest of the region in order to find a solution that is in the best interests of all PACP states.

In preparation for the Special Pacific ACP Ministerial Meeting tomorrow, the PACP Officials met today to discuss technical issues for presentation to the Ministers.

The Fijian delegation to the Officials meeting is led by the permanent secretary for Industry and Trade, Shaheen Ali.

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