PRESS STATEMENT - Wednesday 2nd February 2011 - The European Union (EU) remains fully committed to concluding negotiations of a comprehensive trade and development agreement (EPA - Economic Partnership Agreement) with the Pacific region.

This was the message delivered this week by the Head of the European Union (EU) Technical Office in Samoa, Mr John Stanley, to Pacific ACP Trade Officials at their meeting in Apia, Samoa.

"Such an agreement would include all the countries of the region and be fully in line with the process of regional integration in the Pacific," said Mr Stanley.

An interim agreement is already in place with Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

"At the same time, we should be realistic about the special nature of the Pacific region. We are faced with countries which differ greatly in their economic situation, development needs and relations with the EU. We would therefore be ready to look at other formats as well."

Mr Stanley added that following the series of meetings in Apia this week, the European Commission looked forward to re-launching negotiations with the Pacific and agreement on a work programme for the rest of 2011.

At their three-day meeting which concludes today, Pacific ACP Trade Officials will deliberate on various regional trade-related matters, including progressing negotiations with the European Union on a comprehensive EPA.

Trade officials will also discuss issues related to engagement with the World Trade Organisation (WTO), Aid for Trade and developments under the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA).

Advice from trade officials will form the basis of deliberations by Pacific ACP Trade Ministers who convene in Apia tomorrow.

Pacific ACP countries are a grouping of the Pacific Islands Forum's island countries, encompassing the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.