PRESS STATEMENT - [Port Moresby, PNG - Tuesday 9th August 2011] Progressing market access offers by Pacific ACP States is an important step toward the establishment of a trade agreement with the European Union.

Market access offers are proposed national plans to gradually reduce duties on imports from the European Union under an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the regions. They are an essential step toward the conclusion of negotiations with the European Union.

Trade Ministers from the Pacific bloc of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States are currently meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, to finalise positions, including market access offers, and arrangements in preparation for the next round of negotiations for an EPA with the European Union.

"The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat continued to assist Pacific ACP States to draft market access offers during the first half of this year," said Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade.

"Countries have advanced some very important work and we are pleased to say that eight countries have finalised their offers. This is not a small feat, and I commend Pacific ACP States for their continued hard work."

The Secretary General explained that work to progress countries' market access offers in 2011 included a number of consultation missions to countries and the convening of a regional market access workshop.

At their meeting today, Pacific ACP Trade Ministers welcomed the work carried out by the Forum Secretariat and the Oceania Customs Organisation in support of Pacific ACP States' advancement of their market access offers.

The Acting Head of Delegation for the Delegation of the European Union to Papua New Guinea, Dr Kay Beese, also welcomed the efforts that went into the preparation of revised draft market access offers by various countries, which were transmitted to the European Commission recently.

"The European Union is committed to continue and conclude negotiations on a comprehensive Partnership Agreement with the Pacific region," Dr Beese told Ministers.

Pacific ACP Trade Ministers will conclude their meeting today with deliberations on a way forward for negotiations with the European Union.

The next round of negotiations between Pacific ACP States and the European Union is scheduled for November 2011 in Brussels.

Pacific ACP States include all Forum Island Countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.