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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 22) – Pacific island countries including Fiji will offer European Union member countries access to fishing rights in the region in exchange for investment in the industry and EU market access.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola, who chaired the Pacific ACP [African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States] Trade Ministers meeting in Nadi, said this was the reason they were collectively negotiating with the EU to develop a multilateral fisheries partnership agreement.

He said the main focus of the agreement would be market access into the EU for island countries.

"Considering we have the largest stock of tuna in the world, that would be in their interest," Mr Tavola said. "We obviously want to benefit from that through market access in terms of not only the market access fees but also the developmental dimension that will come with that. Because if they're coming in to have access to our stock they would need to bring in investment, new technology in terms of the kinds of fishing plant or fishing vessels. We want them to create jobs and development of not only large fishing but also coastal fishing at the village level."

Mr Tavola said apart from the market access, it was the developmental dimension of what market access would bring which was critical for Pacific Island countries.

He said at the moment Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Federated States of Micronesia had bilateral agreements with the EU.

He said the Pacific Trade Ministers agreed to jointly maintain unity on the matter and negotiate a multi-lateral fisheries agreement on one condition — that those who have existing bilateral agreements with the EU would not suffer as a result but continue to enjoy the benefits.

June 23, 2006

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