Solomon Islands is maintaining its position against the European Union's (EU) pressure on Pacific Nations for binding commitments in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group and the EU.Deputy Prime Minister Fred Fono, who represented Solomon Islands at the 6th ACP Leaders Summit in Acra, Ghana, earlier this month, said there are outstanding issues which make Pacific States susceptible to binding obligations.
Recently the Pacific region resumed negotiations with the European Commission with the view to finalizing a Goods only component of an EPA with discussions on a Services component to be negotiated later.
Progress was made in some areas, but a considerable number of issues remain outstanding.
However, the EC's persistent pressure for inclusion of binding commitments in the EPA on intellectual property rights, government procurement and other areas pose problems for Pacific States in relations to their capacity to accept binding obligations in such areas at this time.
Fono said Solomon Islands maintains the position by Pacific ACP Group that the EPA should be more than a simple trade agreement.
"It should be a trade and development agreement and form the basis for a long-term relationship between the PACP Group and the EU".
"For Solomon Islands export taxes constitute an important source of revenue for Government, and, the EC's insistence on its exclusion in an EPA is a cause for great concern as the obvious ramification would be one of serious fiscal problems," he explained.
Fono said Solomon Islands also recognize the problems posed by the EC's demand for MFN in EPAs as this not only contradicts the Enabling Clause that fosters possible South-South trade cooperation but more so greatly inhibits policy space which is required to both develop value added and processed products and for the protection of infant industries.
"Such a scenario prompts me to think that the EC's intention is to let us remain as suppliers of raw materials forever," he said.
Solomon Islands is part of the Pacific ACP configuration negotiating an EPA with the EU. At the deadline of December 2007, only Fiji and Papua New Guinea signed interim agreements with the European Commission.
And in spite of that, Pacific Leaders, in their most recent Summit in Niue agreed that the region continue to collectively negotiate a comprehensive EPA under the direction of the PACP Trade Ministers, and that a comprehensive EPA should be accepted only when all parties agree.
Pacific Leaders agreed that the comprehensive EPA must reflect the differing circumstances and interests of all the PACPS.