Closing Address at EU-PACP Technical Working Group on Fisheries by AG Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to our guests from the European Commission (EC) in Brussels, and indeed our Pacific officials.

I hope your stay so far has been pleasant and the discussions you have had have been fruitful and have brought us a step closer toward finalising our long on-going negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Fiji is committed to the Pacific ACP States’ (PACP) effort to conclude the Comprehensive EPA as a single region. We are also committed to establishing a formal trade and economic partnership with the European Union through the EPA.

This will be our first Partnership with a trading bloc of developed nations.  By the virtue of being the first, it needs to be done right. In other words, the EPA needs to be a vehicle for sustainable development for the Pacific, by enabling the region to utilise its resources to attract onshore investment, encourage value addition, and exports.

Concluding a development-friendly EPA will also set a precedent for a favourable PACER Plus agreement with Australia and New Zealand and subsequent agreements that could be negotiated by the Pacific States. Therefore a successful EPA is critical to the region, in terms of our relations with the EU, plus its precedent value.

Global sourcing for fresh and frozen fish, in addition to global sourcing for processed fish, is a key component of a development-friendly and balanced EPA for the Pacific. Global sourcing will allow the region to gain more benefits from its single largest shared resource.

Many Pacific ACP countries face challenges in developing their own fishing fleets and setting up processing factories. Through global sourcing, the region will be able to pool resources and enter into joint ventures to attract onshore investment and develop its infrastructure. This will allow all the countries of our region to share the benefits of our fisheries more equally. The region in turn will have access to more jobs – especially for women – and better living standards.

In this sense, we share the EC’s concern that our fisheries resources need to be conserved and sustainably managed. In essence, our objectives are the same. The PACP countries will be the biggest losers if there is a failure in our conservation and management measures.

In this context, the Pacific States have put in place a raft of measures to manage and conserve their resources.

However, I don’t believe that differences in how we approach conservation should stop or delay us from achieving a favourable EPA, nor should it be used as a reason for not extending global sourcing to fresh and frozen fish.  As studies have shown, global sourcing will not only achieve socio-economic development by alleviating poverty and creating gainful employment, it will also enhance regional integration. This is critical given the Pacific’s disperse demographics.

The Pacific States would like to reiterate that global sourcing for processed fish, which is already included in the interim EPA, should be immutable. It is our position that this needs to be extended to fresh and frozen fisheries products and provided to all Pacific States without any restrictions.

Some investment in the region has already taken place in anticipation of the extension of global sourcing rules to fresh and frozen fisheries products.  Fiji and Kiribati have already entered into a joint venture arrangement through investments by Golden Ocean and plans are in the pipeline to have similar commercial joint venture operations between Fiji and Tuvalu.

We agree that our Fisheries management policies, whether national, sub-regional or regional, should be transparent and applied fairly. However, our valued partners, like the EU, should recognise our national laws, as well as sub-regional and regional measures. Our partners should also complement our conservation efforts.

The PACP States have sovereignty over their territorial waters and sovereign rights in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs). The fisheries resources in the waters of the Pacific should be sustainably utilised to achieve the development aspirations of PACP States, by encouraging investment in both upstream and downstream value addition activities and job creation.

The PACP States have also agreed to comply with the EC’s regulation on Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing and to take measures to combat IUU. Again, we have the same interest here, which is to protect our precious shared resources.

For example, Fiji, recently, has put in place the Offshore Fisheries Management Decree that allows Fiji to not only regulate fishing within our Zone, but also offshore fishing by Fiji flagged vessels.  There are stringent penalties in the decree that deter IUU fishing.

In addition, our long-line vessels have “vessels monitoring systems (VMS)” that chart their fishing activity. Fiji was also chosen as a pilot country by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to have observer cameras on board fishing vessels. In December 2012, the Fijian Albacore Long-line fishery was awarded the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification, and was the fourth tuna fishery industry in the Pacific to achieve this.  The MSC enables traceability from the sea to the shelves and sets rigorous standards for sustainable and well-managed fisheries.

Therefore, my message to this Group is that we have a small window of opportunity to unlock the development benefits that the EPA has promised. As we all know, the preferences accorded by the EU through “duty-free quota free” entry will not last in perpetuity and may soon erode, as other partners finalise arrangements with the EU.

Therefore, I urge the EC to take heed of the deadline the Pacific ACP side is working toward. The PACP Leaders have already extended the deadlines for the conclusion of the EPA twice. We need a firm commitment and cooperation from the EU to ensure that negotiations are concluded in June 2013.

We are at a crucial stage of EPA negotiations. Both sides need to work on their final positions.  Further delays in the negotiations will not work in any parties’ favour and may lead to a missed opportunity to conclude the EPA. We need to build on the momentum that was achieved at the end of last year and bring the long outstanding negotiations to a conclusion by June 2013.

On this note, I request that this Technical Working Group, after returning home to your respective countries, sends the necessary feedback and proposals for the Fisheries Chapter of the EPA and for the global sourcing rules of origin on fresh and frozen fish.

The Pacific ACP Trade Ministers, in their upcoming meeting in May, need concrete proposals on the table to conclude negotiations on the Comprehensive EPA.

I wish you the best in working toward our targets. To our visitors from the European Union, I hope you have enjoyed our Fijian hospitality and wish you a safe journey on your return home.

Thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.

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