The National , Tuesday, May 31, 2011
PACIFIC countries in the Pacific, African Carib- bean Pacific (ACP) group are ready to join PNG and Fiji in signing the economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
Pacific ACP countries have again stressed their commitments to conclude negotiations on EPA with the EU by the end of the year, as reported by Solomon Star newspaper yesterday.
“However, that deadline could only be achieved, if there was flexibility from both sides,” the Pacific lead spokesperson on EPA negotiations and Tonga’s minister for trade, Lisiate Akolo said.
The deadline for negotiations was December 2007 but the Pacific region failed to meet the timeline because it was not able to strike an acceptable free trade deal with the EU.
Instead, Fiji and PNG signed interim EPAs with the EU in 2009.
“I am pleased to inform you that interim agreement was ratified by the PNG parliament last Wednesday and the implementation of the agreement is well advanced,” Akolo said in his progress report to the ACP’s 93rd session of the council of ministers meeting underway in Brussels, Belgium.
After seven years of negotiating the EPA the region seeks to bring negotiations to a conclusion.
“We believe the region is now prepared and ready to do this.
“A recent meeting of Pacific ACP in Apia, Samoa, and ministers agreed that this would be the overarching priority for the region in 2011.
“But any conclusion will require all parties to show flexibility and be mutually committed to undertaking the work necessary to conclude the agreement,” Akolo said.
He said the rest of the 12 Pacific ACP countries reaffirmed their desire to conclude a comprehensive EPA as a single region.
The Pacific ACP EPA 2011 Strategy was adopted by trade ministers in Samoa, which outlined a work programme for the conclusion of the EPA.
For PNG, Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Don Polye has completed their agreement with his EU counterpart in March.