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Pacific ACP ready to sign EPA by year end

Fiji Times

Pacific ACP ready to sign EPA by year end

By Makereta Komai

30 May 2011

Pacific ACP countries have again reiterated their commitments to conclude negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) by the end of the year.

However, that deadline can only be achieved, if there is flexibility from both sides, said the Pacific lead spokesperson on EPA negotiations and Tonga’s minister for trade, Lisiate ’Akolo.

The deadline for negotiations was December 2007 but the Pacific region failed to meet the timeline because it was not able to strike an acceptable free trade deal with the EU.

Instead, Fiji and Papua New Guinea signed interim EPAs with the European Union in 2009.

"I am pleased to inform you that interim agreement was ratified by the Papua New Guinea parliament on Wednesday and the implementation of the Agreement is well advanced," said Akolo in his progress report to the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)’s 93rd Session of the Council of Ministers meeting, underway in Brussels, Belgium.

After seven years of negotiating EPA, the region seeks to bring negotiations to a conclusion.

"We believe the region is now prepared and ready to do this.

"A recent meeting of PACP in Apia, Samoa, ministers agreed that this would be the overarching priority for the region in 2011.

"But any conclusion will require all parties to show flexibility and be mutually committed to undertaking the work necessary to conclude the agreement, said ’Akolo.

Mr ’Akolo said the rest of the 12 Pacific ACP countries reaffirmed their desire to conclude a comprehensive EPA as a single region.

The Pacific ACP EPA 2011 Strategy was adopted by trade ministers in Samoa, which outlined a work program for the conclusion of the EPA.