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Pacific leaders want EPA negotiations to resume

Solomon Star News, Solomon Islands

Pacific leaders want EPA negotiations to resume

By Samisoni Pareti, Islands Business Editor in PNG

10 September 2015

PORT MORESBY, (ISLANDS BUSINESS) - Explore all options is the instructions Pacific leaders have told officials who are negotiating an economic partnership agreement with the European Union.

Negotiations for a proposed EPA have been on going for the past eleven years with no agreement in sight, prompting the EU earlier this year to suggest that negotiations should be suspended for 3 years.

At the Pacific ACP Leaders meeting in Port Moresby today, Forum chair and Prime Minister of PNG Peter O’Neill said leaders want the Pacific to pursue a comprehensive EPA (cEPA) with the EU.

A meeting on this with European Commission senior officials is planned to be held in the margins of COP 21 in Paris in December this year.

Asked by Islands Business on how the instructions for a cEPA will stand given that his own country and that of Fiji have already signed into an interim EPA (iEPA), O’Neill said nothing has been ruled out and that island negotiators have been told to "explore all options."

On PACER Plus negotiations between Forum island countries on the one hand and Australia and New Zealand on the other, Prime Minister O’Neill said negotiations have been going well.

Leaders commended Australia’s offer for increased job opportunities for Pacific island workers and they have urged New Zealand to increase the qouta for island workers too.

Pacific leaders also discussed the future of the ACP Secretariat in Brussels, expressing the hope that its future will be extended beyond 2020.

Leaders also endorsed a decision to establish a Pacific ACP office in Brussels, and a senior official confirmed that greenlight was given for the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat to look into a possible US - Pacific Island trade and investment arrangement.

The 46th Pacific Islands Forum was officially opened on Tuesday night at the modern National Aquatic Centre in Port Moresby before leaders — all 15 of them — go into their main plenary at the Sir John Guise Indoor Stadium yesterday.

The Forum meeting will end tomorrow.