PNG follows EU out of group

Business, Normal

The National, Thursday July 2nd, 2015

 PAPUA New Guinea has withdrawn its participation and engagement with Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) group discussions within Pacific island states, Trade, Commerce and Industry Minister Richard Maru announced yesterday.

He said this was due to the European Union’s withdrawal from engaging with the Pacific countries as after more than 10 years, no agreement had been reached following economic discussions held between the countries.

Maru said there was huge investment in the country by EU and PNG did not want to tarnish the good relationship that we have with European countries now that PNG had been working on strengthening its relationship with Europe.   

“We are formally withdrawing from being a member of the negotiating team of the Pacific Island states,” Maru said after returning from Europe following trade meetings and discussions with leaders from European countries.   

“The EU announced a couple of weeks ago that they have suspended all the negotiations and they don’t want to discuss those agreements over the next three years.

“The reason is because they are not happy with the negotiations that have gone on for almost 11 years without reaching any agreements. 

“Our position with EU, we have already agreed and signed an agreement, they are so important because they underpin the fisheries industry in the country, among others.

“We do not want to jeopardise our relationship with EU. 

“We cannot endanger the very fragile relationship we have with EU,” Maru said. 

Trade division director general Max Rai said: “It was on the basis of that they (EU) did not want to continue with wasteful negotiations in coming up with a regional EPA. So they are urging the Pacific countries to join the IEPA (interim economic partnership agreement) – we have.”

“European Union leaders in no uncertain terms told us that there will be no EPA. They have urged all countries in the region to become part of the IEPA.

“So our government has taken a stand now – we hope that others in the Pacific will realise that it is a wasteful effort.”