Posts tagged ACP

Sayed-Khaiyum Calls for Unity at ACP talks

Fiji’s Attorney-General and the Minister for Industry and Trade, Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, has called on fellow trade ministers from the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states to develop a unified message on trade before they meet the European Commission later this week.

As Chair of the 16th ACP Group Ministerial Trade Committee Meeting, the Minister urged the 260 delegates, representing 64 countries in the developing world, to act quickly to end the current uncertainty on a number of critical issues.

He reminded the delegates that in order to achieve to best outcome for the peoples of the ACP nations, the ministers needed to urgently address remaining issues relating to the Economic Partnership Agreement [EPA] with the EU; the European Commission’s Communication on Trade, Growth and Development; the European Commission’s negotiations with third parties; and commodity related issues.

“This is an important opportunity for ACP Trade Ministers and we must be well prepared to have constructive dialogue on key issues on trade and development with the Europeans,” he said.

The Minster particularly stressed the importance of finalising a unified position on the Economic Partnership Agreement before going into the ACP-EU Joint Ministerial Trade Committee meeting on Friday.

“I encourage all of us to put forward innovative but pragmatic solutions to resolve the outstanding issues and conclude negotiations on a Comprehensive EPA for the benefit of all. In this respect, I would like to request that at this ACP Ministerial Trade Committee Meeting all discussions and deliberations are focused with a view to forwarding pragmatic proposals to ensure that a collective and united message is put clearly across.”

The Minister is chairing the two-day deliberations of the 16th ACP Group Ministerial Trade Committee Meeting before co-chairing the ACP-EU Joint Ministerial Trade Committee meeting on Friday.

He welcomed Fiji being given the opportunity to lead the discussions. “Fiji’s chairing of the meeting demonstrates the confidence that the ACP has in a small island developing state and indeed is a testimony of the equality that exists between the ACP member countries and indeed between the different regions of the ACP family.”

AG Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Chairs Another Big International Forum

After being chosen to chair the G77 group of countries at the United Nations, Fiji has again been honoured with an invitation to chair an important committee of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP) at a series of meetings in Brussels in the coming week.

The 16th Meeting of the ACP Ministerial Trade Committee will be chaired by the Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade, Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who leaves for Europe on Monday at the head of the Fijian delegation. He will be accompanied by the Permanent Secretary for Industry and Trade, Mr. Shaheen Ali.

The Ministerial meeting will be attended by ministers from the 79 ACP countries. In its 37 years, the organisation – working as a bloc – has been able to secure advantageous aid, trade and investment treaties for its members with the European Union.

As well as chairing the ACP meeting, the Minister will be co-chairing the 11th Joint Ministerial Trade Committeetalks between the ACP and the European Union. He will share the role with the European Union Trade Commissioner, Mr. Karel De Gucht. His Permanent Secretary, Mr. Ali, has been given the task of chairing the ACP Senior Officials meeting.

The Minister says that being invited to chair the ACP meetings is another major achievement for Fiji. “Like the Non Aligned Movement and the G77, the ACP is a significant voice for developing countries and plays a key role in south-south dialogue. By calling upon Fiji to chair these meetings, the ACP countries have reaffirmed their confidence inFiji. This further solidifies Fiji’s role as a key player in the international arena,” he said.

The Minister added that the Brussels meetings gives Fiji the opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to the ACP group and highlights the fact that it is an integral member.

On his role as chair of the Ministerial Trade Committee, the Minister said it will address important issues relating to ACP-EU trade, including implementation of the Interim and Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements.

“These negotiations for the Pacific ACP countries come at a crucial juncture and our meetings will enable the Pacific ACP countries to formulate their strategies. The whole idea is to build capacity and expand our trading opportunities,” he said.

Mr. Sayed-Khaiyum – Opening Address at Pacific ACP Trade Officials’ Meeting

BulaVinaka and very good morning and warm welcome.

Over the next three days you willdiscuss issues,which relate to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) the Pacific ACP states are negotiating with the European Union (EU).

I am sure that none of us need to be reminded that we have been negotiating the EPA for nine long years.

Every now and then, we need to stop and ask ourselves, what do we expect to achieve in this process?

what have we achieved thus far?

We need to ask ourselves are we at the risk of losing sight of our objectives in these meetings that we attend?

Are we still committed to concluding a beneficial EPA?

And have we been doing enough to bring these negotiations to a conclusion or are we just going through the motions and being led by other parties?

These questions are important if we are to justify to our stakeholders the time and resources spent in these negotiations.

The EU is one of the largest markets in the world, with over 500 million consumers, and has the potential to be a significant export market for the Pacific. The EPA provides us with an opportunity to have access into the European market –duty free and quota free.

The Pacific is constrained by narrow production base and remoteness from major trading partners, making us an unattractive proposition for FTAs.Thusthe ‘preferentialaccess’ offered by the EPA becomes essential to off-set some of the inherent disadvantages faced by the Region.

It should be noted that the European exporters will also through the EPA get duty free quota free access into our market. I am sure you are also aware that other countries outside the region that maybe our competitorshave also forged favourable market access agreements (or are in the process of doing so) with the EU.

What are our alternatives or fallbacks to the EPA?

We all know that LDCs can resort to the ‘Everything But Arms Agreement (EBA)’. The non-LDCs would be pushed to the GSP scheme (or without any arrangement at all if they are classed as Middle Income Countries (MIC)). Our Region has a disparate mix of Developing Countries, LDCs and LIMCs.

We should also note that schemes such as the GSP and EBA are unilateral and may not continue indefinitely. As was seen with the GSP recently, they can be changed at any time. With the expiry of the Cotonou Agreement in 2020, we should question whether these arrangements would be adequate to underpin our trade relations with an important partner like the EU.

The last thing we want is to be forced into an arrangement that is against our national interest. At the end of this process our ultimate objective should be to have access to a range of options which includes the best possible Agreement we can have with the EU.In this endeavour, we have resolved to negotiate the Comprehensive EPA, in solidarity as a single and united Region. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure, having invested many years and millions of Euros in these negotiations, that we craft an agreement that benefits our Region.

We should also be mindful of how we negotiate EPA as it will have a major bearing on the Region’s other proposed agreements like the PACER Plus negotiations. We may have to give the very same concessions we give to the EU and perhaps more.

If we look at Fiji’s experience, weinitialled the Interim EPA in 2007 and signed it in 2009, principally, to ensure our sugar exports to Europe were not disrupted. However, we are yet to ratify the EPA. This is because we believe that we need to take a strategic approach. We need totake into consideration the long term impact of such an agreement. We need to ensure that our country’s economic and development aspirations are fully addressed. The I-EPA, as it currently stands,fails in this regard.

Furthermore, the I-EPA contains several contentious issues that challenges our national sovereignty, constrains our policy space and has the potential to retard our development. It also contains issues unrelated to trade thatshould be appropriately addressed in other foras. These issues have to be removed or resolved before we can commit to the final Agreement.You as trade officials have the important task to address these issues in theComprehensive EPA negotiations.

It is worth noting that the recent policy changes by the European Commission to withdraw market access regulations in 2014, places further pressure on the Pacific to conclude the current negotiations and have in place a Comprehensive EPA with the EU. The EC needs to understand that the current level of engagement is unacceptable. Furthermore, a strong message needs to be sent to the EC making it clear thatthe Pacific ACP side will not settle for any interim or temporary solutions. Rather, as was our initial vision, we are committed to concluding negotiations on a full and Comprehensive EPA.

It is also of concern that we have met the European Commission only once in almost 3 years and even that meeting has been at an informal level. On the other hand, the EC has been regularly meeting the other ACP sub-regions, at all levels including at Summit/HoG level. If the PACP and EC are not able to sit across the table and have serious negotiations how will the outstanding and contentious issues be resolved?

Whilst the EC has to shoulder the responsibilities of the lethargy in these negotiations we have to question whether we have also played our part. In relation to this it is imperative that our country representatives whether Ambassadors of the individual countries or regional representatives represent our best interest with vigor – not the interests of the EU. Their role is to protect our interests not succumb to the diplomatic machination of the EU nor to the salubrious environment of Brussels or London.

You, our Regions’ Trade officials, will discussan array of critical issues on the EPA over the three days that includes our fisheries access, legal options on contentious issues and customs issues to name a few.I have been informed that apart from Fiji and PNG, the rest of the PACPs are close to finalising their market access offers, in line with EU benchmarks that were demanded from us. Careful thought is now neededon how the Region will leverage these offers to get commensurate concessions from the EU.

In light of the Regional mandate to conclude the negotiations by 2012, this meeting would be one of the last opportunities you have to firm up our positions and strategies (which isto be endorsed by the Trade Ministers) before we meet the EU later in the year, for the final round of negotiations to conclude the Comprehensive EPA.

Iwish you well in your deliberations.To those visiting our shores I wish you a pleasant stay and invited you to take advantage of the Fijian hospitality.

VinakaVakaLevu and Thank you