The National, Monday May 25th, 2015
THE European Union (EU) remains firmly committed to economic partnership in the Pacific despite recent claims to the contrary, Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström says.
“The press release from the Pacific Islands Forum, dated May 15, 2015, clearly does not acknowledge this, nor does it recognise the EU’s efforts over the years to conclude comprehensive EPA negotiations in the Pacific,” Malmström said in a statement.
“It omits that the conditions for a successful conclusion of these negotiations are currently far from being met.
“It seeks to put the blame for the current stalemate exclusively at the EU’s door, but does not suggest any constructive way forward, other than more meetings.
“The EU will respectfully await a formal reply to the proposal made by its Trade Commissioner. The EU continues to view the Pacific as a privileged partner and not just in the area of trade.
“In the trade field, the EU is continuing to implement faithfully the Economic Partnership Agreement concluded in 2007 with Papua New Guinea and Fiji, and which has an accession clause for other Pacific countries – big or small – that wish to join it.”
In September 2004, the European Union started negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the Pacific region.
More than 10 years later, negotiations are still far from conclusion.
The Pacific region has disagreed with EU positions on proper fisheries governance and the sustainable management of Pacific fishery resources. Bearing in mind Pacific States’ sensitivities on fisheries and Pacific plans to review fisheries resources management in the region, Malmström suggested to await the outcome of that review and to return to the would-be comprehensive regional EPA in three years’ time.
Meanwhile, the EU is continuing to implement the economic partnership agreement concluded in 2007 with Papua New Guinea and Fiji, and which has an accession clause for other Pacific countries that wish to join this agreement. “It is therefore not correct to take the EU Trade Commissioner’s proposal as a sign of EU ‘reluctance’ or unwillingness to meet and negotiate,” Malmström said.
“Far from unilaterally suspending the negotiations, the Trade Commissioner has invited her ministerial counterparts to reflect on a way out of the current stalemate.
“Instead of putting pressure on the Pacific partners, the Commissioner has suggested a suitable period of time for such reflection and review.”