For anyone to suggest that the Pacific ACP internal meetings and their meeting with the EU Trade Commissioner held in Honiara last week were orchestrated by the Forum Secretariat is simply not true.This was highlighted by Robert Sisilo the country’s trade envoy in a statement.

He pointed out that at no time was Solomon Islands pressured by the Forum Secretariat, or anyone else for that matter, to host the meetings.

“What is true however is that following a decision by the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers not to meet with the European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner in October 2013, the EU subsequently wrote to the Pacific ACP Lead spokesperson proposing to meet with as many Pacific ACP Ministers as possible in Honiara on 12 December 2013.

“Despite the short notice the Solomon Islands Government, in its wisdom felt it was a good opportunity for the region and offered to host the meetings.”

He further explained that upon receiving the letter from the EU and Solomon Islands Government’s offer to host, the Forum Secretariat circulated the EU proposal to have an informal meeting in Honiara on 12 December to all the members for their comment.

A letter of invitation was also sent by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Clay Forau, inviting PACP Trade and Fisheries Officials and Ministers to the meetings in Honiara.

“Most Pacific ACP States agreed that it was a good opportunity to meet with the EU Trade Commissioner to clarify a number of issues before the region meets internally early next year.

“They also agreed that the meeting with the EU Trade Commissioner should be preceded by an internal Pacific ACP Ministerial meeting from 9-11 December to discuss the issues before meeting with the EU,” Sisilo said.

The purpose of the internal meeting was mainly to update the other Members on the EPA negotiations and prepare for an informal meeting with the EU. The Pacific ACP States discussed the key issues internally before meeting the EU, the statement explained.

“Eleven Pacific ACP member states attended the meetings in Honiara including the informal meeting with the EU.

“The meeting with the EU was not a formal negotiation but to take stock of the status of the negotiations and chart the way forward. The meeting was very useful in clarifying the issues and the EU stated that the negotiations on the comprehensive EPA have not been officially suspended.

“As a way forward, both sides agreed to continue negotiations on the comprehensive EPA and that the next round will be held in March 2014 and a commitment to conclude in 2014.

“PACPS also agreed to meet internally early next year to prepare fully for the next round of negotiations with the EU.”