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Pacific ACP trade ministers meet in Nadi, Fiji

Pacific Magazine, Hawai’i

REGION: Pacific ACP Trade Ministers Meet In Nadi, Fiji

21 June 2006

(Forum PR) - The Pacific ACP Trade Ministers Meeting was held in Nadi, Fiji, on 19 and 20 June 2006.

Trade Ministers from the following countries were present: the Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Solomon Islands. The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Republic of Marshall Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu and Vanuatu were represented by Trade Officials.

The Meeting was chaired by the Honorable Kaliopate Tavola, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Fiji.

On the overall preparations for the conduct of the current phase of the EPA negotiations, the Ministers noted the positive progress made so far. They re-emphasized that the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) must go well beyond a conventional free trade agreement and have a strong development focus.

They also insisted, in particular, that the EPA should have a tangible development dimension for trade capacity-building and trade adjustment assistance. To that end, the Ministers gave their strong support for the ‘Five Point Plan for EPA Implementation and Adjustment’ which was adopted by the six Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) regions at their meeting in PNG in early June.

That Plan will facilitate an orderly and beneficial adjustment to trade liberalization resulting from an EPA. In this regard, PACP Ministers called on the EU to fulfill its commitment on Aid delivery targets made at the Gleneagles G8 Summit in 2005.

The Ministers reaffirmed the commitment of all PACP States to remain united as a region in the negotiation of an EPA with the EU. They reiterated the need for the region to develop an EPA that delivers real benefits to the people of the Pacific ACP States.

At the Meeting the Ministers considered among other matters, an overview and update on the conduct of the EPA negotiations with the EU. They also considered the region’s negotiating positions on fisheries, investment and the labour mobility (Mode 4) proposal for the EU. They endorsed the draft EPA Legal Text for informal discussion with the EU.

The Trade Ministers also discussed other related regional trade issues, including a proposal to investigate the possibility of establishing a Pacific House for PACP diplomatic missions in Brussels, the review of the implementation of the Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) and WTO issues.

The Ministers called on all Parties to the PICTA to expedite the completion of legislative changes required for the implementation of trade under PICTA in early 2007.

In terms of the proposed Fisheries Partnership Agreement (FPA), the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to negotiate a regional multilateral fisheries agreement with the EU. They also reaffirmed their commitment to ensure that the proposed FPA with the EU not disadvantage the PACPS that have existing bilateral fisheries agreements with the EU.

On other regional trade issues, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment for a speedy implementation of PICTA.

One of the objectives of the proposed Pacific ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreement is to promote regional integration. In this regard, they noted that the Cook Islands and Fiji have commenced trade under the PICTA. They encouraged the other Forum Island Countries to finalize their obligations to implement PICTA so that the benefits of free trade could accrue to all parties.

Recognising the important trade-related developments currently taking place in the region, Ministers agreed on the need to meet again in 2006 to review regional positions on EPA negotiations and other key issues.