EUROPEAN UNION WANTS TRADE AGREEMENT WITH PACIFIC STATES AFTER LOMÉ

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (March 9, 1999 - PACNEWS)---The European Union (EU) has advised a meeting of trade officials from South Pacific Forum countries that it is committed to negotiating a reciprocal free trade arrangement with those Pacific states that enjoy a special trade relationship with the EU under the Lomé Convention.

Eight Pacific states -- including Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu -- presently come under the African, Caribbean and Pacific group that benefits under Lomé.

These trade negotiations will begin after the current Convention expires in the year 2000.

Trade officials have agreed that the proposal by the EU for a regional economic partnership arrangement is one of a number of options for the region to consider as Forum countries seek to integrate their trade and economic links. However, they believe it is important that such external initiatives not drive the process of regional integration and trade liberalization. They say the region itself is committed to these objectives and must be given time and space to respond in its own way to the challenges of globalization.

In the meantime, representatives from major trading partners -- such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States -- say that if the Forum Island Countries conclude a reciprocal trading arrangement with the EU, then other major trading partners should also be offered similar access privileges.

This is one of the outcomes of a workshop on the future of trade relations with the EU after the year 2000, held at the South Pacific Forum Secretariat in Fiji.

The trade meeting was jointly organized by the Forum Secretariat and the Commonwealth Secretariat based in London.

SOUTH PACIFIC FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT March 9, 1999

EUROPEAN UNION-PACIFIC TRADE MEETING OUTCOMES

The European Union has advised a meeting of trade officials from South Pacific Forum countries that it is committed to negotiating a reciprocal Free Trade arrangement with those Pacific states that enjoy a special trade relationship with the EU under the Lomé Convention.

Eight Pacific states (Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu) presently come under the African, Caribbean and Pacific group that benefits under Lomé.

These trade negotiations would begin after the current Convention expired in 2000.

Trade officials agreed that the proposal by the EU for a Regional Economic Partnership Arrangement was one of a number of options for the region to consider as Forum countries sought to integrate their trade and economic links. However it was important that such external initiatives not drive the process of regional integration and trade liberalization. The region itself was committed to these objectives and must be given time and space to respond in its own way to the challenges of globalization.

Representatives from major trading partners such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States said that if the Forum Island Countries concluded a reciprocal trading arrangement with the EU, then other major trading partners should also be offered similar access privileges.

The meeting recognized the need to further develop the trade relationship between Forum Island Countries, either through existing trade arrangements or through a wider Free Trade Area regional arrangement.

Forum Island Countries need first improve the coordination of their legislation, and customs and quarantine requirements, in order to deal with global trade liberalization.

This is one of the outcomes of a workshop on the future of trade relations with the EU after 2000, held at the South Pacific Forum Secretariat in Suva, Fiji.

The meeting also discussed the question of the proposed EU access to the region's important tuna stocks and agreed this should be done in a way that ensures sustainable use and which ensured good returns.

The meeting felt that developing investment guarantee arrangements in other promising sectors such as tourism, where trade and investment complementarity existed between the Pacific and the EU, was an important way of enhancing the economic relationship between the two sides.

On tourism, the officials said it would be necessary to liberalize services such as civil aviation in order to assure lower air fares and encourage more efficient services in the region. The meeting suggested the Forum Secretariat continue to review transport issues, including the adequacy of shipping links, and how these could be improved.

The trade meeting was jointly organized by the Forum Secretariat and the Commonwealth Secretariat based in London.

FROM: Ulafala Aiavao (SMTP:UlafalaA@forumsec.org.fj)

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