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Pacific ACP countries express deep concern at EU trade deal proposal

Pacific Forum Secretariat

28th August 2007

Regional trade officials and legal experts who attended the Pacific ACP (PACP) Legal Technical Working Group (TWG) Meeting in Nadi, Fiji, from 23-25 August, have expressed their disappointment and deep concern at the draft text proposed by the European Commission (EC) for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) covering trade in goods, trade in services, fisheries, investment and development cooperation.

Under the Cotonou Agreement, the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group and the EU have agreed that negotiations on new trading arrangements under an EPA must conclude by 31 December in order to maintain at least the current favourable market access for ACP goods to the EU after that date. This is of critical importance for a range of PACP exports, especially canned tuna.

Since the start of Pacific regional negotiations on a trade deal in 2004, the EC has repeatedly stressed that the negotiations were intended to arrive at an EPA which catered for the specific trade and development needs of the Pacific region, as well as assisting regional integration and fostering increased participation by the 14 PACP countries into the global economy.

Despite there being less than five months before the deadline for concluding the EPA negotiations, the EC’s draft text was only received by the region in early August and was still lacking in a number of critical details.

The meeting recalled that the region had transmitted its own comprehensive, proposal for a ‘pro-development’ EPA legal text to the EC over a year earlier that balanced the needs and interests of both the EU and PACP countries.

The TWG reviewed the draft EC text in detail. It observed that the text contained explicit provisions setting out the Commission’s demands while reflecting almost none of the key written proposals of the PACP group nor the positions put forward and key interests expressed by PACP Ministers and Officials during discussions that had been taking place between the two sides by the region over the last two years.

The EC’s draft EPA legal text was clearly a slightly modified version of a separate text drafted primarily for consideration by one of the African ACP regions in their EPA negotiations. While the draft EC text has a number of provisions which might appear to make sense in an African context, the PACP trade and legal experts considered that the EC’s draft proposal did not reflect the realities of the small, vulnerable economies of the Pacific Islands.

Faced with the 31 December deadline, the TWG expressed concern that, unless there was significant negotiating progress made in the coming months, the region could well be forced to make a choice between accepting the EC’s text or face devastating increases in tariffs for important export products such as canned tuna which would result in substantial job losses for PACP countries.

At the same time, however, the TWG recalled the commitment of PACP Trade Ministers to intensify EPA negotiations and endorsed a detailed programme of meetings with the EC in the few months leading up to the December 31st deadline.


For more information, contact Dr Roman Grynberg, Director, Economic Governance Programme on phone 679 331 2600 or email:[email protected]

 source: The Pacific Islands Forum and its Secretariat