Rarotonga, Cook Islands, 27/08/12 - The media in the Pacific island countries has an important role to play in the development of trade in the region.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat's Director of Economic Governance Programme, Mr Shiu Raj told senior journalists who attended the Pacific Islands News Association - Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Regional Media Workshop in Rarotonga, 24 - 25 August that the media can "assist in enhancing business' understanding of the current trade negotiations, processes and opportunities."

"The media can create opportunities for businesses to provide input into the negotiations and facilitation of trade by way of sharing lessons from their current experiences," Mr Raj told the journalists.

Mr Raj added: "The media can assist by regularly reviewing the extent to which the region is engaging to implement the trade Agreements. Such reviews would stimulate discussions on the utility of trade agreements, and will help in the review of specific provisions of the agreement."

Current trade negotiations which countries in the region are involved in include the Pacific Islands Trade Agreement (PICTA) Trade in Services, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union and negotiations amongst the Forum island countries and Australia and New Zealand in the context of PACER Plus.

"But we already have a number of regional, sub-regional and bilateral trade related agreements in place which needs to be implemented with increased vigour so that businesses and the people at large can see real benefits of such engagements," Mr Raj said.

Mr Raj told the Media Workshop that the next negotiating session of the EPA negotiations with the EU is expected to be in the first week of October this year and Pacific ACP States are in the process of finalising their submissions to the European Commission (EC).

"A number of contentious issues remain unresolved and flexibility is being sought on the EU's part. On its part, the Pacific region also intends to show some flexibility so that negotiations can conclude soon," said Mr Raj.

Pacific ACP Leaders will consider these issues when they meet in Rarotonga on 28 August.

In the case of PACER Plus negotiations, Mr Raj said there is good progress so far on the common priority issues including Rules of Origin, Customs Procedures, Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, and Technical Barriers to Trade through the inter-sessional meetings. Further engagement at the technical level on Regional Labour Mobility (beyond Mode 4) and development assistance focusing on physical infrastructure for trade, trade development and promotion and other issues will be facilitated in the coming weeks.

PACP Leaders will discuss further engagement under PICTA, the conclusion of the PICTA Trade in Services Protocol and its implementation, and negotiations on the temporary movement of natural persons.

"The role of media in facilitating dialogue on key issues between the private sector, government and other non-state actors should not be ignored. Specialised journalism in core trade issues would benefit the Pacific media," Mr Raj added.

"The Forum Secretariat to support Forum island countries in the development of their National Trade Policy Frameworks, trade capacity building at the national levels, and also the promotion of Pacific exports and investments through the Pacific Islands Trade and Investment network," Mr Raj confirmed.