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PRESS STATEMENT August 6, 2002


1. The Pacific ACP Trade Ministers met in Suva, Fiji on 6th August 2002 to prepare for negotiations on new trading arrangements with the European Union due to be launched in September 2002. The Countries represented were the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The meeting was chaired by Fiji's Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon Kaliopate Tavola.

2. The Ministers noted that their meeting would help to shape an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU -- as required by the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group. While globalization had largely been imposed on the Pacific ACP by events beyond their control, the member states needed to turn this to their advantage and an EPA with the EU would help in this regard.

3. The Ministers agreed to adopt a two-phase approach, with ACP-wide issues being dealt with first by the ACP collectively, followed by the Pacific Phase when a Regional EPA would be negotiated. The Ministers also endorsed a five-year Regional Action Plan 2002-2007 to guide the Pacific ACP states in their negotiations.

4. On the content of the EPA, the Ministers noted that a "market access only" agreement would impose new costs (through loss of tariff protection and fiscal revenue) on Pacific ACP members, while conferring no new benefits. Therefore, the EPA must also address the region's capacity to take full advantage of export opportunities in the EU market.

5. The Ministers recognized that unless the Pacific ACP states were able to export goods or services at competitive prices, all the market access in the world would be of little value, and the negotiations would be pointless.

6. It was crucially important that the negotiations with the EU produced an EPA that took full account of the urgent need for assistance with trade facilitation, technical advice, and additional resources. Such provisions would require additional EU funding for Trade Facilitation measures; Trade Co-operation; addition of Services to the EPA; inclusion of sectoral agreements (e.g. with regard to Fisheries and Tourism); and other measures.

7. The Ministers noted that the goals of the Cotonou Agreement were to reduce poverty, promote sustainable development, and progressively integrate the ACP countries into the global economy. Therefore, it was clear that the EPA should not be a conventional trade treaty, but rather a development agreement that also acknowledged the need for special and differential treatment of the island nations - especially the Least Developed Countries.

8. On the Negotiating Machinery, the Ministers agreed that the Trade Experts Advisory Group (TEAG) be drawn from Pacific ACP countries, and beyond if necessary, to provide technical and negotiating backup to the Pacific Negotiating team during negotiations. The Pacific ACP Unit within the Forum Secretariat would provide administrative and technical support.

9. The proposed Pacific ACP Regional Action Plan required Euro 4 million to be implemented and this would be sought from the Euro 20 million made available to the ACP Secretariat. Specific project proposals relating to the regional work plan would be developed by the Forum Secretariat, in consultation with Pacific ACP members, for funding assistance.

10. The Trade Ministers noted with appreciation the Commonwealth Secretariat's generous funding allocations of 100,000 pounds annually to be provided to the Regional Integration Bodies in the ACP Regions, for the next 3 years, to assist in their EPA negotiations.

For additional information, contact: Ulafala Aiavao at 

Ulafala Aiavao Media Adviser Forum Secretariat Private Bag Suva, Fiji

Tel: (679) 3220 220; Mob: (679) 9998 674 Fax: (679) 3305 554 Email:  Web:  Mirror site: 

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