PIFS Responds To Fiji’s Withdrawal From Trade Talks

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

News Release

Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Suva, Fiji

Thursday, December 12, 2013

In response to the article titled "Fiji pulls out" published in The Fiji Times on 11 December 2013, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat rejects the alleged contravention of an agreement by Pacific ACP member states and wishes to clarify the serious and erroneous allegations being made on the role of the Forum Secretariat.

The Secretariat said that the special meeting of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers and Fisheries Ministers convened in the Solomon Islands was duly notified to Fiji and other countries and freely agreed to and attended by the Pacific ACP States (PACPS).

Following the impasse in Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) trade negotiations in Brussels in October 2013, the European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner wrote to the Pacific ACP Lead spokesperson proposing that he could meet with as many Pacific Ministers as possible in Honiara, Solomon Islands, on 12 December. The Trade Commissioner’s proposal was circulated to all PACPS via an official circular in the normal way.

Until Fiji’s unheralded withdrawal, there was no dissent and not one objection to the Honiara meeting from any PACP country, including Fiji.

The Secretariat clarified that the meeting with the EU Trade Commissioner is not a negotiation session but a special meeting that was convened to clarify issues and to take stock on the status of the EPA negotiations, before formally resuming the negotiations with the EU.

Except for Papua New Guinea and Niue, all PACP countries are represented in the meeting in Honiara. Eleven countries – not six - are in attendance, with 10 Pacific Ministers participating.

The Secretariat said that the suggestion from Fiji that the Secretariat is acting for the EU and that it is putting pressure on the PACP states or dictating directions to PACPS is simply not true, and hardly deserves a serious response.

The Secretariat is the technical advisory body to the EPA regional negotiating machinery, and that the Secretariat has very diligently and professionally executed its responsibility.

The Forum Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, responded in the meeting to counter the allegations from Fiji. He said that the Secretariat is a service organisation that is proud of its competence and professional behavior, and that it remains ready to be of assistance to all Pacific island member states.

The Secretariat said that the Fiji walk out from a Ministerial meeting is simply not done, and was an extraordinary display of unwarranted and un-Pacific behavior.

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