Caption: Attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum during discussions in Nadi today. Photo: MINFO.

Fiji has called on the European Union to meet the June deadline established by the Pacific ACP to conclude its comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.

Speaking at a PACP-EU Technical Working Group meeting in Nadi today, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum asked for a firm commitment from the EU to ensure that an agreement is reached.

“My message to this group is that we have a small window of opportunity to unlock the development benefits that the EPA has promised. The PACP leaders have already extended the deadlines for the conclusion of the EPA twice. We need a firm commitment and cooperation from the EU to ensure that negotiations are concluded in June 2013”, he said.

The Attorney-General says Fiji is committed to the PACP’s effort to negotiate an Economic Partnership Agreement as a single region. Pacific nations would be able to pool their fisheries resources and enter into joint ventures, which are not possible under the present arrangements.

“This will allow all the countries of our region to share the benefits of our fisheries more equally. The region in turn will have access to more jobs – especially for women – and better living standards”, he said.

The Attorney-General says Pacific nations are especially keen to include global sourcing for fisheries as a key component of the agreement. Global sourcing would allow a PACP country to purchase fish from approved sources – including non-PACP vessels – process it and export it to the EU. This would benefit Pacific countries that lack their own fishing fleets.

The currents rules do not allow PACP countries to buy fish for export to the EU from foreign owned and foreign flagged vessels, even if the fish was caught within PACP waters.

Under an interim agreement, the EU has agreed to grant global sourcing for canned fish from the Pacific. But the Attorney-General reiterated today the PACP wanted global sourcing to be extended to fresh fish and frozen fish.

“This will allow the region to gain more benefits from its single-largest shared resource”, the Attorney-General said.



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