SEEK MORE THAN MARKET ACCESS

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PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT Suva, Fiji Islands

PRESS STATEMENT September 22, 2002 Brussels, Belgium

FROM EUROPEAN UNION, PACIFIC URGED

Pacific Island countries will be seeking to negotiate a development agreement with the European Union, rather than one based only on market access.

This is according to the Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Mr. Iosefa Maiava, who made the comment on the eve of negotiations in Brussels this week to establish economic partnership agreements with the EU under the Cotonou Agreement.

"Even though globalization has been forced upon us by events beyond our region, it is up to the Pacific region to turn this challenge to our advantage. An Economic Partnership Agreement might provide us with an opportunity to do that.

Mr. Maiava said that there is no such thing as a level playing field in the negotiations with the EU or the World Trade Organization. The concept of special treatment for the weaker members of the global community -- especially the Least Developed Countries -- is a central theme to the Pacific ACP states.

While the ACP group needs to pay attention to the issue of WTO compatibility of any new trading arrangements with the EU, the weakness and vulnerability of many of Pacific Island economies means that it is essential to be flexible, open-minded and practical.

Last month, the Pacific ACP Leaders endorsed a two-phase approach to the negotiations for an EPA -- one that was ACP-wide, and a second for Pacific ACP states.

Mr. Maiava noted that the Cotonou Agreement seeks to reduce poverty, promote sustainable development, and integrate the ACP countries into the global economy.

"Therefore, an EPA should help and not frustrate the achievement of such an objective. It must help our people, not through welfare handouts, but through opportunities to earn incomes by using their resources -- their land, their fisheries, their industries and their business talents.

The negotiations for an economic partnership with the EU start on September 27 and will take five years for an agreement that will shape future relations between the EU and the Pacific.

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