The Ministry of Industry and Trade has commenced consultations with industry stakeholders to take advantage of the positive discussions on rules of origin held in between the 14 Pacific ACP States (PACPS) and the European Union (EU) in December 2012 said the Permanent Secretary for Industry and Trade, Mr Shaheen Ali.
“The Fijian Government, together with the other 13 Pacific ACP States (PACPS), has been negotiating a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the European Commission (EC) to provide market to Fijian made products and produce”, said Mr Ali.
“Fiji is already a signatory to the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement by the virtue of which Fijian products are getting “duty free-quota free” entry into the European market, provided the product meets and satisfies the European Union (EU) rules of origin requirements”, said the Permanent Secretary.
“The Fijian Government, however, is also pursuing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), together with its fellow PACP States, to ensure Fiji and the region negotiates the best possible agreement that will that enhance our exports and support our development aspirations”, said Mr Ali.
“The on-going negotiations on the CEPA is also an opportunity for Fiji to ensure that the final rules of origin provide sufficient flexibility to address the challenges faced by small island developing states like Fiji, in developing its manufacturing and agriculture-based sectors to export to the EU” said Mr Ali.
“Rules of Origin criteria and other non-tariff barriers are key impediments to “duty free access” under the EPA”, said Mr Ali.
“During the technical negotiations in December 2012, Fiji and the Pacific ACP countries achieved significant breakthrough in the negotiations with the EU. The EU agreed to consider improvements in the Rules of Origin, in particular the specific rules, (product list rules) that set the minimum Local Area Content. Local Area Content determines the minimum threshold of local content in terms of cost and raw materials needed to qualify for preferential treatment” added the Permanent Secretary.
For example, manufactured product such as a life jacket is currently required to meet at least 60% threshold in terms of Local Area Content or 60% of local ex-factory cost to qualify for “duty free quota free” access into the EU market. However, based on the evidence provided by the Fijian businesses, the EU agreed to consider lowering this threshold to suit the realities faced by Fijian businesses in meeting the rules of origin in order for their products to quality for duty free entry into the EU”, said Mr Ali.
Fiji has already secured favourable Rules of Origin for canned fish and cooked loins, through the global sourcing provisions in the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) by providing industry-specific details on the problems that the fishing industry faced in complying with the EU Rules of Origin. The IEPA also contains flexible Rules of Origin on textiles products.
“Fiji and the PACPS are negotiating with the EC to extend global sourcing provisions to also apply to fresh and frozen fisheries products (fish meats or fillets) in the CEPA. However, apart from Fish we need to ensure that all our current as well as future potential exports to the EU benefit from favourable and flexible rules” added Mr Ali.
“Whilst the EC has broadly agreed to positively consider Fiji’s request, such improvements will be made on a case by case basis and will depend on the analysis and data provided to determine the merits of granting a concession.
Therefore, in order to collect the information necessary to present a strong and real case to the EC, the Ministry is undertaking one-on-one meetings with the current and future exporters to EU” said Mr Ali.
“The information and evidence collected from the meetings will enable the Ministry, with the assistance from PIFS, to put together the final list of products for which Fiji wants favourable Rules of Origin” said Mr Ali.
“Favourable rules negotiated by Fiji will also benefit the rest of the Pacific ACP States”, said Mr Ali.
“Following the one-on-one meetings, a National Workshop on Cumulation to update our stakeholders on the progress made on the CEPA negotiations will be held later this month,” said Mr Ali.
“I encourage the private sector to get in touch with the Ministry of Industry and Trade for further information on how they can participate in this National Workshop” said Mr Ali.
“The National Workshop on Cumulation will also be an opportunity to finalise Fiji’s position on fisheries issues and rules of origin in preparation for the Fisheries Technical Working Group Meeting with the EU, which will be held from 4-7 March 2013, in Nadi.