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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Apr. 6) – The solidarity of Pacific island countries will be tested as they meet to discuss proposals on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations in Port Moresby this week.

Members of the Pacific region’s Asia Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are meeting with an aim to have the best possible deal for the Pacific Island countries’ EPA negotiations with the European Union.

Papua New Guinean Minister for Trade and Industry Paul Tiensten said in his opening address that the Pacific Island Countries (PIC) needed to assess why they had not fully utilized non-reciprocal trade preferences that were granted to the ACP countries and how the PIC could improve on it to foster economic growth and development in the region.

He said the Pacific region was given an opportunity over the EPA negotiations to gain an advantage so that the region could be given seize the initiative and the moment and not allow others to take advantage on the region’s behalf. 

"We want an agreement that will improve economic growth opportunities offered by national, regional and international markets and not only by the European Union and other ACP states," Mr Tiensten said.

"The economic and trade co-operation between the EU and the region has to be broadened to foster smooth and gradual integration of the region into the world economy and the development component of such partnership has to be maintained in the new trade and economic arrangements."

He said the region had to develop effective negotiation strategies to maneuver the negotiations to the region’s advantage. 

"We need to accommodate the needs and objectives of individual states and develop negotiation positions to optimize their inclusion in the Economic Partnership Agreements," Mr Tiensten said.

"The Pacific ACP region’s solidarity will be tested in seeking solutions to possible deadlocks in the negotiations. The cohesiveness of the region is important if we are to gain in the negotiating process and accrue benefits for us all."

He said no Pacific ACP member country should be worse off than they were now and the different levels of membership classifications such as Small Island States and Least Developed Countries should be accommodated in the discussions and an appropriate recommendation made to the ACP trade ministers for further deliberations.

Mr Tiensten said the officials’ meeting should also consider making the EPA negotiations accessible to all stakeholders so that each stakeholder had ownership over the outcome of the negotiations.

He said the officials were in a much better position to come up with an effective negotiation platform for the EPA as they had been on the ground and understood the needs of the Pacific region on global trade.

April 7, 2004

Papua New Guinea Post-Courier: www.postcourier.com.pg/


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