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Pacific Governments want amendments to EPA

National Broadcasting Corporation, Papua New Guinea

Pacific Governments want amendments to EPA

27 November 2008

Pacific governments have given early indications they will not sign the current Economic Partnership Agreement with European Union without amendments.

Regional Trade Policy Adviser Dr Joim Gosselin said the Pacific governments will only sign if the agreement is changed to cater for their concerns.

Dr Gosselin said the agreement as it is, disadvantages the Pacific governments which they want to negotiate further in the current ACP/EU meeting.

The agreement among others calls for PNG and other island nations to impose export taxes on its logs.

About K100m comes from the log export taxes annually which PNG would miss out if it signs.

European Union is pushing for such conditions in the agreement in return for Pacific countries to have access to their markets.

Fiji like PNG has conditions tied to its sugar export whilst Solomon Islands to its logging industry.

Other smaller Pacific Island countries are more keen in the service industry.

The Pacific negotiating team is pushing to have an agreement that would warrant qualified pacific islanders living and working in European countries for at least two to three years.

Dr Gosselin said the European Commission insists that Pacific Islanders live and work in Europe for at least 6 months but the Pacific governments oppose this.

Pacific Go In As One

The Chief Negotiator for the Pacific governments and Regional Trade Policy Adviser also said the Pacific governments will work as a team for trade negotiations with the European Union.

Dr Gosselin said PNG and Fiji have indicated they will not repeat negotiating alone.

PNG previously was under enormous pressure from the European Commission to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement for its canned tuna market in Europe and Fiji for its sugar market.

Dr Gosselin in an interview said EU sometimes applies heavy handed tactics against ACP member countries to get them to sign economic agreements in favor of EU member countries.

Meanwhile civil societies from the region are urging the Pacific governments to negotiate further with EU for a better economic deal.

Coordinator of Pacific Network on Globalization Maureen Penjueli said Pacific governments must not allow EU to dictate the terms and conditions of the agreement.

Ms Penjueli said Pacific governments must push for amendments to benefit the island nations.