EPA TALKS AT CRITICAL STAGE

The European Union has acknowledged the seriousness by both Fiji and her Pacific neighbors who are part of the African Caribbean and Pacific group (ACP) to conclude negotiations into the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The Ministry of Industry and Trade permanent secretary Mr Shaheen Ali (pictured) assured stakeholders this morning that while the EPA negotiations have been long and arduous, mutually beneficial outcomes to the EPA negotiations could be reached soon.

With talks beginning as early as 2002, the Pacific (ACP) States have pushed for a comprehensive Agreement that would set the platform for all future multilateral trade agreements between the Pacific and other developed partners.

While Fiji and Papua New Guinea have signed interim EPA?s to access markets in the sugar and fisheries sector, both continue to negotiate a Comprehensive EPA with the rest of the Pacific ACP Countries, as a single united region.

?The Fijian Minister for Industry and Trade, Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, as the Chair of the ACP Ministerial Trade Committee, had direct talks with the European Commission (EC) Trade Commissioner, asking him to focus on the PACP region,? Mr Ali said.

?During the December technical meeting with the EC, Fiji made submissions on Rules of Origin (ROO) based ?real life? examples such as ?life jackets? that are produced in Fiji.?

Through such meetings, Fiji has been able to secure favorable Rules of Origin (ROO) for the export of cooked or processed fish (commonly known as global sourcing provision), under the Interim EPA.

?The PACP is the only ACP region that has secured these beneficial rules,? Mr Ali added.

?The Ministry is now working with all stakeholders, particularly the Private Sector, to extend these favourable rules to fresh frozen and chilled fish, under the Comprehensive EPA.?

Based on the successful meetings with EU last year, there has been a narrowing of differences between PACP and the EU in other key areas, apart from ROO.

These include fisheries and development cooperation.

MINFO