Friday, 24 October 2008 8:11 AM

PACP States Agree to Continue EPA Negotiations as Single Region

The Pacific ACP States have reaffirmed their commitment to continue the negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) "as a single region" based on existing negotiating positions as agreed last March.

At the two-day PACP Trade Ministers Meeting (PACPTMM) held in Nadi, Fiji 20 - 21 October, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to conclude the negotiations as a unified region and their support for the efforts made to date by PACP Officials supported by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).

In considering a progress report on the state of negotiations, Ministers recognized that while progress had been made on various technical issues at the September meeting of PACP and European Commission (EC) officials, a number of significant EPA issues remained outstanding that would require some time to work through. They directed their officials to continue their efforts in that regard and to meet directly with the EC side when such a meeting was required to make significant progress

The PACP Trade Ministers agreed that it would also be useful to discuss the region's approach to the EPA during the November meetings of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, and PACP - EU Joint Parliamentarians with their European counterparts in Vanuatu.

The Ministers also considered the possibility of launching a PACP Ministerial Mission to selected European capitals to seek their support for the PACP States' position on the EPA.

The PACP Trade Ministers agreed that the Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Relations, Hon. William Haomae, who is currently the Alternate Lead Spokesperson for the EPA negotiations, will temporarily assume the role of PACP Lead Spokesperson.

The meeting also discussed the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement,(PICTA) the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus with Australia and New Zealand and other trade-related issues and gave directions for follow-up action by officials and the PIFS to strengthen regional integration among the Forum Island Countries (FICs) and to deepen trade and economic cooperation between FICs, Australia and New Zealand.

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

The meeting was chaired by Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, Fiji's interim Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Provincial Government and Multi-Ethnic Affairs.

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