REGION: Pacific ACP Countries Propose New Agreement With EU
Tuesday: March 21, 2006
Pacific countries that are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group have proposed an all embracing trade agreement with the European Union (EU) under the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that will come into force in 2008.
“Included with a major agreement would be four subsidiary agreements. This would cover services, goods, investment and fisheries, Isikeli Mataitoga, the chief executive officer Fiji’s foreign and external trade ministry told PACNEWS.
Almost half of the 14 members of the Pacific ACP members do not trade in goods with the EU.
“It would be unreasonable to sign up to the agreement given the tariffs and adjustment costs requirements.”
“That is why we would like to capture all our concerns in this bigger agreement,” Mr Mataitoga said.
Mr Mataitoga said while the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers will meet in June to finalise the Pacific’s position on an EPA with the EU, the biggest challenge now is the ratification of the agreement.
“Half of the Pacific ACP countries would have to ratify the proposed trade agreement through their parliaments, immediately after the agreement is initialed. This needs to be completed by 31 December 2007 in order for the new EPA to come into force on 01 January 2008.”
He said the EU would not allow another waiver to push the date for the EPA to come into force. This was a provision allowed under the previous Lome Convention.
“The ratification process is beyond negotiations and the onus will be on member countries to push their governments to get the proposed agreement ratified by the end of 2007,” Mr Mataitoga explained to PACNEWS.
Mr Mataitoga, who chairs the senior officials negotiating team, said, “there is pressure to get the negotiations done early and gets it adopted and ratified on time.”
“We will be able to do that but it’s up to the capitals of member countries to push the process through quickly.”
At its last meeting in Suva last week, the Regional negotiating Team, comprising of ministers from member countries, it was agreed that a replacement for Kaliopate Tavola as principal negotiator for the Pacific, will be made at the June session of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers meeting in Port Moresby.
Currently, Samoa’s trade and tourism minister, Joachim Keil is assisting Mr Tavola’s role.
Mr Tavola, who is Fiji’s foreign affairs minister, has resigned from politics.