Posts tagged EU

FIJI CONTINUES TRADE WITH EU THROUGH INTERIM EPA

The Bainimarama Government is taking the necessary measures to ensure that preferential market access of Fiji’s most important exports—sugar, fish, garments and processed foods to the EU will not be disrupted by a lapse in a trade agreement with the European Union.

“This is a significant action that preserves the favourable market conditions for the foundations of our export economy. The results are that thousands of Fijian jobs are protected and our economy will continue to grow at its fastest rate in years,” said Attorney-General and Minister of Industry and Trade, Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

Specifically, the Fijian Government has approved the provisional application of the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union to maintain favourable market access for Fijian exports.

The Attorney-General and Minister of Industry and Trade notified his European Union (EU) counterpart, the Commissioner for Trade, informing him of the Fijian Government’s decision to go forward with the Interim EPA.

Fiji’s objective in the trade negotiations with the EU has always been to conclude a long term, mutually beneficial and development friendly Comprehensive EPA, rather than a shorter term interim EPA.

The minister said concluding the Comprehensive EPA, together with the rest of the Pacific ACP countries remains an urgent priority.

“A major factor working toward building confidence and securing a comprehensive agreement are the reforms instituted by the Bainimarama Government to revitalise and diversify the sugar industry, especially with regard to the improvements in the quality and productivity of Fijian Sugar,” Sayed-Khaiyum said.

The Bainimarama Government has invested heavily in the sugar industry, a vital sector of the economy that supports the livelihood of over 200,000 Fijians.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade will work with its EU counterparts to assure a smooth transition to the provisional application of the Interim EPA and guarantee that there are no disruptions to exports.

MINISTER FOR TRADE AIYAZ SAYED-KHAIYUM’S SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE PACIFIC ACP TRADE AND FISHERIES MINISTERS MEETING

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you

I welcome you all to Fiji

Fellow Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

Firstly, I want to extend the sympathies of the Fijian Government, to all those citizens and residents of Solomon Islands who have suffered losses from the flash flooding that occurred last week.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Solomon Islands as they recover from this natural disaster.

Our gathering here over the next few days is critically important as our region is at a point where decisions need to be made with regards to our participation in the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

We need to make crucial decisions, as a single, unified grouping – decisions that will not only shape our immediate future but the long term development of our region.

Fellow Ministers, we are at a juncture where we need to ask the following pertinent questions.

Is it still in our interest to pursue a Comprehensive EPA?

If yes, do we go forward as a single region?

How can we achieve an EPA that benefits us all?

The only answer to that is to negotiate as a united, cohesive and effective Pacific ACP group.

We need no reminding that since the negotiations on the Comprehensive EPA began a decade ago, we, the Pacific ACP region, have been ignored by the EU for at least 25% of the time.

When negotiations resumed in 2012, the EU has failed in giving us an agreement better than the Interim EPA (as promised in 2007), but has made more demands, and pushing us to agree to what is on the table or go back to the Interim EPA. In this process, they have encouraged division in our region.

Fiji has always been a champion of regionalism and, amongst other things, this was the reason we continued negotiating the Comprehensive EPA with the rest of the region. We want only one EPA for the region, which will promote regional integration and not divide us.

Hence, some of you would remember that in Brussels in October 2013, we had agreed to have a meeting of the Pacific ACP Ministers, not to just go through the motions and approve the recommendations of our officials, but to take matters in our own hands and make many of the real decisions ourselves.

In order to have one EPA – and I know that is what we all want – we need to address Papua New Guinea’s participation in the negotiations. It is encouraging to note that PNG has agreed to come to the table as an observer.

We need to think beyond tomorrow, and the next 5 years or the next 20 years. We need to ensure that our future generations are secure. Hence, we cannot and will not let a trade agreement diminish our ability to deliver to our people basic socio-economic rights, which include the right to housing, education, health, food and the right to economic participation.

Therefore, there is only one option for the region. And that is to have one Economic Partnership Agreement that has a strong development aspect and that does not impinge on our sovereignty and policy space – WE WANT THE BEST EPA.

Therefore, we are at a stage in these negotiations where we need political will and decisions made at the highest level. The Pacific ACP Leaders have not met since November 2012.

The region’s Leaders have been left out of the major developments in the PACP region and the EPA negotiations.

We also believe that the Leaders need to meet to consider some of the fundamental issues, as to how we can take ownership of the EPA negotiations and its implementation after conclusion of negotiations.

Fiji will not be party to an Agreement that may provide us with short term market access, but have a long term negative impact on our development aspirations as a nation and our ability to have control over our resources and economies.

Fellow Ministers, it is up to us to set the direction of these negotiations – whether to continue and finalise then by May/June 2014 or suspend them, keeping in mind that a new European Parliament will be elected in May and a new Trade Commissioner will take office in September.

We have to decide the best option. We have to ask ourselves whether we are just going through the motions and will not achieve anything. We have to ask ourselves should we redirect our limited resources elsewhere.

Ministers, as I stated earlier, we want an EPA that is development oriented. Therefore, the Development Cooperation Chapter in the comprehensive EPA is a crucial element in any decision we make.

The EU has made the claim that it is the second largest donor in the Pacific and a substantial amount of that is Aid for Trade. The EU funding is naturally appreciated. However, compared to the aid for trade provided to the African and Caribbean states, there’s no question that the Pacific gets inadequate, if not, the smallest share.

We need to have in place mechanisms that involve us taking ownership. That is why the establishment of the Pacific Regional Trade and Development Facility is so critical. We do not want such things as the Investment Facility for the Pacific proposed by EU to make our mechanism irrelevant and deprive us of a precious resource. We should also question the method in which funds are diseminated. The IFP lacks governance and transparency. And the involvement of third parties and external agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, which the new EU facility proposes, limits the availability of funds to the region.

Fellow Minister, the EPA, as a trade agreement, has been burdened with non-trade concerns, which has caused further delays in its finalisation. Poorly conceived political provisions, that disadvantage the Pacific ACP, have been imposed on the region.

These provisions in the EPA are skewed in favour of the EU, who are the judge, jury and executioners in determining whether there is a violation of the political provisions and have the freedom to invoke illegal trade sanctions in response. There is no independent adjudication and the opinion of the Pacific ACP as contracting parties of the EPA does not matter in these provisions.

Fellow Ministers, these are some of the crucial issues that we have before us and we need to tackle them with resolve to achieve our vision of securing the best result for our region. Whilst there are time pressures imposed upon us, we need to ensure that we come out as winners for the sake of all our peoples.

The EPA is the first such agreement between the Pacific region and a developed trading bloc. We therefore need an agreement that is development friendly, provides opportunities for the region to integrate into global trade and does not limit our policy space and impinge on our sovereignty.

We need a well negotiated EPA that sets a precedent for all other trade agreements that are currently being negotiated or will be negotiated in the future, such as the PACER Plus with Australia and New Zealand.

I look forward to constructive deliberations over the next two days.

Once again welcome to Fiji. I hope you get to see some more of the country and please enjoy our famous Fijian hospitality.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.

Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Opens PACP Trade Minister’s Meeting

FIJI WITHDRAWS FROM “RUSHED” TRADE TALKS

Fiji has withdrawn from the Pacific ACP (PACP) meeting in Solomon Islands organised by the Forum Secretariat “as a matter of principle.”

The current meeting, meant to prepare PACP trade ministers for discussions with the European Union (EU) later in the week,  was called by the Forum Secretariat before a full meeting of  the PACP was allowed to take place, in direct contravention to the path agreed to by the member states.

Only 6 of 14 PACP trade ministers were able to attend on such short notice.

In a very strong statement to his fellow PACP trade ministers who were present today, Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that PACP countries need to meet without the EU’s presence or pressure from the Forum Secretariat.

“The Pacific Trade Ministers who were present in Brussels [in October] had decided and agreed to meet separately in Fiji, not just for one day but for the necessary period required to resolve and strategise on the issues pertaining to the comprehensive EPA, vis-à-vis the outstanding and contentious issues,” he said.

The Attorney-General said that such a meeting would also allow PACP states to address the withdrawal of PNG from the negotiations in Brussels, a crucially important issue surrounding the EPA negotiations.

The AG said that by calling “rushed” trade talks with the EU before this meeting was allowed to take place, the Forum Secretariat clearly has not fulfilled its responsibility to action the decisions of the Ministers and the wishes of the member states.

“The Forum Secretariat is not here to act on behalf of the EU and they should not dictate directions to the members but provide technical advice and further our position,” he said.

The Attorney-General told his fellow ministers that the EPA was not something to play with or decide on the trot.

“The reality is that the Comprehensive EPA in its current form has enormous ramifications on our policy space, sovereignty and development, “ he said.

“It also constraints our ability to deliver basic socio-economic rights to our citizens.  The Fijian Constitution, assented to by the President on 6 September 2013, provides for unprecedented socio-economic rights, including the right to housing, education, health, food and the right to economic participation. We cannot let any trade agreement prevent Fiji from providing these basic necessities to our citizens,” he said.

He stated that only as a united region can the Pacific achieve a better agreement that provides markets and at the same time ensures the sustainability of vital resources for the betterment of all Pacific Islanders.

He urged fellow PACP countries not to be pressured by the EU into finalising a deal or into moving into an agreement that is less than favourable and could have detrimental long term impacts.

“In this regard, we understand the urgency of Solomon Islands, who are perhaps being pushed into acceding to the Interim EPA to secure market access of their precious fisheries resources,” he said.

The Attorney-General said that they had reached a stage in the negotiations where the PACP grouping needs the political will from the highest level.

“The region’s Leaders have been left out of the major developments in the PACP region and the EPA negotiations.  The PACP Leaders need to meet and provide the mandate to us Ministers and Officials on the way in which the EPA needs to be progressed,” he said.

At the meeting today, the AG repeated Fiji’s invitation to host a full PACP meeting at either the Leaders or Ministerial level.

He concluded his remarks by saying that Fiji’s decision to withdraw from the meeting does not mean that it is abandoning its regional neighbours.

“We are and have been from the start, a strong advocate of regional solidarity, which, perhaps has been to the chagrin of the Forum Secretariat and our detractors,” he said.

“We are committed to negotiating a Comprehensive EPA, but one that is favourable to all parties, has development at its core and which is for the benefit for all our citizens,” he said.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s Remarks at the Special Pacific ACP (PACP) Ministerial Meeting in Solomon Islands

Bula Vinaka and very good morning

Good to see some of you again, here this morning. It is far cry from the freezing temperatures of Brussels.

We have been called here, firstly, to meet amongst ourselves with the view to meet the European Trade Commissioner later in the week.

I am deeply concerned in the manner in which the meeting this morning and the subsequent planned meeting with the trade commissioner has been organised.

The Pacific Trade Ministers who were present in Brussels had decided and agreed to meet separately in Fiji, not just for one day but for the necessary period required to resolve and strategise on the issues pertaining to the comprehensive EPA, vis-à-vis the outstanding and contentious issues.

This agreed meeting, proposed to be held in Fiji, was also important for us to address the withdrawal of PNG from the negotiations in Brussels.

The PACP Ministers agreed to the meeting in Fiji, to re-group and re-strategise and form a united approach to take us forward in the EPA negotiations.

The reality is that the Comprehensive EPA in its current form (to state the obvious) has enormous ramification on our policy space, sovereignty and development.

It also constraints our ability to deliver basic socio-economic rights to our citizens.  The Fijian Constitution, assented to by the President on 6 September 2013, provides for unprecedented socio-economic rights, including the right to housing, education, health, food and the right to economic participation. We cannot let any trade agreement prevent Fiji from providing these basic necessities to our citizens.

I would at this juncture, like to state that the Forum Secretariat is not here to act on behalf of the EU and they should not dictate directions to the members but to provide technical advice and further our position.

And I would like to state that from my observations from Brussels, the Forum has been non-transparent and has not played the role of the Secretariat or carried out in honesty and sincerity the decisions of the Ministers and the wishes of the member states.

Chairman, Fellow Ministers, I have come here with a message that the EPA is not something to play with or to decide on the trot.

I do not need to remind you that we do not have technical capacity that the African and Caribbean states have in undertaking negotiations – therefore, our strength is in numbers and our unity.

Whilst countries such as Fiji and PNG have many resources to take advantage of, not all PACP States have the same luxury, as their sole resource is fisheries.

Fiji itself is facing a precarious situation with all our sugar stocks being sold to the EU, however, we will not agree to an Agreement that will provide short term market access but have long term impact on our development aspirations.

Fellow Ministers, the EPA negotiations are at a crucial stage, where we as Ministers need to guide and provide political direction to our officials and the Forum Secretariat.

Our objective is to negotiate an EPA that is development friendly and beneficial to all parties, especially our Small Islands Developing States.

Fellow Ministers, while some say we have spent 10 long years negotiating the Comprehensive EPA – that is not exactly true since there was lull from the EU side for a good number of years.

We have now reached a point where the finalisation of the negotiations is very important for some PACP States.  Some countries are being pressured into finalising a deal at any cost or moving to an agreement that is less than favourable and could have detrimental long term impact on our countries.

In this regard, we understand the urgency of Solomon Islands, who are perhaps being pushed into acceding to the Interim EPA to secure market access of their precious fisheries resources.

We believe that as a united region we can achieve a better Agreement, on our terms, that provides markets and at the same time, ensures the sustainability of our vital resources for the betterment of our people.

I have just come from a Regional Conservation Forum, which was held in Fiji and attended by over 800 delegates from the region and beyond. Present at this Conference was the Cook Islands Prime Minister and Ministers from Palau and Marshall Islands.

The Conference discussed conservation and management of our fragile environment. It is becoming increasingly apparent that our ability to maintain food security, among other things, will be impacted upon by the trade agreements we enter into.

Therefore, we need think and plan for the long term, not just for our children but for the generations to come.  We should not conclude an EPA, at the expense of our countries and our region’s future.

We need to put aside personal differences and egos and come together and think of our future and the future of the region and ask pertinent questions.

Are we getting the best deal – is the current EPA a development oriented agreement?

This brings me back to the decision made by the core group of Ministers in Brussels, that is, the decision to re-group and re-strategy and re-engage with the EU as a single, unified bloc, but not simply make decisions driven by technocrats and officials and in one day.

We are a stage in the negotiation where we need political will and decision made at the highest level.

The Ministers need to take responsibility for the EPA and the roadmap for successful conclusion of the EPA negotiations. I note that since November 2012, there has not been any PACP Leaders meeting.

The region’s Leaders have been left out of the major developments in the PACP region and the EPA negotiations.  The PACP Leaders need to meet and provide the mandate to us Ministers and Officials on the way in which the EPA needs to be progressed.

Fellow Ministers, I urge you to look at the bigger picture – what is the relevance of this meeting and the meeting with EC Trade Commissioner, are we going to achieve the best results for our region?

Mr. Chairman, we still believe that as PACP States we need to meet and closely consider our strategy.

We also believe that the Leaders need to meet to consider some of the fundamental issues, as to how we can take ownership of the EPA negotiations and its implementation after conclusion of negotiations.

As we are aware, the Leaders have agreed to form a separate Secretariat for the PACP.  We as a region need to further discuss the decision of the Leaders and ensure that we fulfil their mandate.

Given what I have just stated, Fellow Ministers, as a matter of principle Fiji cannot participate any further in this meeting.

We are here to reiterate our message that the PACPS need to meet, without EU’s presence or pressure from the Forum Secretariat.  We all need to meet with PNG in regional setting as well, to understand the situation.

Our offer to meet in Fiji is still open.  We of course do not have to meet in Fiji but we do need to meet as a region and as was agreed in Brussels.

Our position does not mean that we are abandoning our regional neighbours. We are and have been from the start, a strong advocate of regional solidarity, which, perhaps has been to the chagrin of the Forum Secretariat and our detractors.

We are committed to negotiating a Comprehensive EPA, but one that is favourable to all parties, has development at its core and which is for the benefit for all our citizens.

Mr. Chairman, I thank you for the opportunity to speak and I thank the good Ministers for their time.

Vinaka Vakalevu.

Fijian Minister for Trade and PACP Chair Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Opens PACP Meeting in Nadi

AG Sayed-Khaiyum’s Remarks at PACP Trade Ministers Meeting

Bula Vinaka and good morning to you all.

We gather today at a very crucial point in the Pacific ACP’s (PACP) trade and development agenda. I would like to thank you all for your presence here, and on behalf of the Fijian Government and on behalf the Fijian People, welcome you to Fiji and it is our great pleasure to host this Trade Ministers Meeting. This is the first time Fiji has hosted such a high-level meeting in almost 5 years, and I am happy to welcome you all back to our shores.

Honourable Ministers,

Over the next two days, our task is to discuss a number of issues that will set the course for the future of the PACP.

The matter of highest priority is our negotiations for a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or (EPA) with the European Union (EU). Such an EPA would secure and define the PACP’s trade and development relationship with one of the world’s largest market and a powerful economic bloc.

As a group, we have been negotiating this EPA for 10 long years. Now that we are finally approaching the conclusion of these negotiations, it is more critical than ever that we continue to work together as a single region to conclude a favourable agreement with the EU.

Because if we ask ourselves the question, “Can we tolerate further extensions to the negotiations?”, our answer must surely be, “No.”

Honorable Ministers, I don’t think you need any reminding that the region does not have the time nor the resources to allow the negotiations to drag on.

We must make the European Union realise that we are serious about finalising a comprehensive EPA.

Our commitment is evident. PACP countries have submitted their Market Access Offers and have provided all the feedback sought by the European Union.

However, unfortunately this commitment has not been echoed by the Europeans. They have not been forthcoming with their responses to these submissions and seem unwilling or unable to match our drive.  Rather than acknowledging the considerable progress we have made, the EU continues to make demands that we believe are counter-productive at this late stage in the negotiations.

Honourable Ministers, the message out of all of this is simple. It is up to us to achieve the outcome we want. We must rely on our work, our effort, and our collective and collaborative vision to negotiate a favourable EPA.

Because a comprehensive EPA is the future. There is no alternative available to carry the PACP-EU trade and development relationship forward.

Without a Comprehensive EPA, all Pacific ACP countries would risk their trade relations with the EU, which is especially important in the case of our fisheries. It’s as simple as that. Rather than leveraging our collective power as a region to negotiate our terms, our respective countries would be forced to accept trade agreements that could be altered or revoked unilaterally by the EU.

Our countries would also risk losing their “Development-Cooperation” relations with the EU, which are provided for under the Cotonou Agreement that expires in 2020. Financial and technical aid from the world’s largest economic bloc is too important for development in the region to leave to chance and uncertainty after this date.

Since the European Union has agreed to include Development-Cooperation in the EPA, it should be at the very core of the agreement. In other words, the agreement shouldn’t be about trade alone. The EPA needs to be a vehicle for sustainable development for the Pacific: to enable the region to best utilise its resources to attract onshore investment, encourage value addition, and drive up exports.

There is another important point that we must also consider. A comprehensive EPA would represent this region’s first partnership with a trading bloc of developed nations. If it is done right, it would set a favourable precedent for other trade agreements in the region, such as the PACER Plus Agreement with Australia and New Zealand, as well as subsequent agreements that could be negotiated by the Pacific ACP States.

Ladies and gentlemen, honorable ministers,

This leads me to another issue for discussion during our deliberations. Closely related to the need to include Development-Cooperation provisions in the EPA, we need to play a larger role in the way development aid flows into our region. We need to work together with our development partners to identify our needs and ensure that the available resources are prioritized accordingly.

It is important that the Pacific Aid for Trade Strategy is in place to help define our long-term trade and infrastructure needs; however, the Strategy is not enough in itself. The Pacific Regional Trade and Development Facility (PRTDF), which has already been endorsed by us Trade Ministers, provides the best mechanism for us – as a region – to identify our own development needs.

We cannot let others determine these needs and priorities. We need to finalise the Memorandum of Understanding on this Facility immediately. To show the EU that we have an institution in place that is developed by the Pacific for the Pacific, to be managed by the Pacific.

Ladies and gentlemen,

As I alluded to earlier on, fish is an especially important export for Pacific ACP states. So it is worth returning to the EPA for a moment to discuss the global sourcing provisions for fresh, frozen and chilled fish and the Fisheries Chapter.  These are absolutely key components of a development-friendly and balanced agreement.

Through global sourcing for the fisheries industry, the region will be able to pool its resources and enter into joint ventures to attract onshore investment and develop infrastructure. This will allow all the countries of our region to share the benefits of our fisheries more equally.

It is not acceptable, therefore, for the EU to try to tie global sourcing for fresh, frozen and chilled fish (as well as global sourcing for processed and cooked fish, which is already granted under the interim EPA), to gain access to our fisheries resources. The development benefits of global sourcing are obvious, and therefore global sourcing for these products should be extended to the comprehensive EPA without restriction.

The EU needs to recognise the fact that each Pacific country has sovereign rights over territorial and archipelagic waters and that we will not allow the EPA to be used to undermine these rights in any way.

The PACP States know how important it is to conserve and manage our valuable natural resources.  As a region, we understand that a prosperous future depends upon being responsible with the resources we are blessed with, so that they can continue to support our peoples for generations to come. Our national, sub-regional and regional conservation policies are as good – if not better – than international measures and should not be undermined in the EPA.

Fellow Ministers,

During our discussions, I urge you once again to focus on achieving the goals we have set for ourselves. In terms of the EPA, we must keep in mind that the next round of PACP-EU technical negotiations in Brussels in June could be the last. By that time, our officials needs to be fully prepared to explore negotiation options, following our guidance, in order to progress and finalise a favourable EPA.

I also note that over the course of the next two days, there will be discussions on the outcomes of the Trade Officials Meeting held earlier in the week, which included apart from EPA negotiation with the EU, a number of trade related issues, such as intra-PACP trade, and the development of trade relations with China and the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen, with those few words, Honorable Deputy Prime Minister, Secretary General, Honorable Minister, ladies and gentlemen, I wish the best in your deliberations. Welcome once again to Fiji and urge you to take time out and enjoy our world renown Fijian hospitality.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

Fiji AG Sayed-Khaiyum Urges EU to Conclude Economic Partnership Agreement

Fiji has called on the European Union to meet the June deadline established by the Pacific ACP to conclude its comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.

Speaking at a PACP-EU Technical Working Group meeting in Nadi today, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum asked for a firm commitment from the EU to ensure that an agreement is reached.

“My message to this group is that we have a small window of opportunity to unlock the development benefits that the EPA has promised. 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”, he said.

The Attorney-General says Fiji is committed to the PACP’s effort to negotiate an Economic Partnership Agreement as a single region. Pacific nations would be able to pool their fisheries resources and enter into joint ventures, which are not possible under the present arrangements.

“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”, he said.

The Attorney-General says Pacific nations are especially keen to include global sourcing for fisheries as a key component of the agreement. Global sourcing would allow a PACP country to purchase fish from approved sources – including non-PACP vessels – process it and export it to the EU. This would benefit Pacific countries that lack their own fishing fleets.

The currents rules do not allow PACP countries to buy fish for export to the EU from foreign owned and foreign flagged vessels, even if the fish was caught within PACP waters.

Under an interim agreement, the EU has agreed to grant global sourcing for canned fish from the Pacific. But the Attorney-General reiterated today the PACP wanted global sourcing to be extended to fresh fish and frozen fish.

“This will allow the region to gain more benefits from its single-largest shared resource”, the Attorney-General said.

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.

Fijian Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum Closes EU-PACP Working Group Negotiations of Fisheries