Speech by Hon. Dr Feleti Sevele, Prime Minister of Tonga and outgoing Chair of PACP
19 AUGUST, 2008


Fellow Leaders
Acting Secretary General, Mr Feleti Teo and your staff
Honourable Ministers
Heads and Representatives of CROP Agencies
Senior Government Officials
Ladies and Gentlemen

Good morning and welcome to this year’s PACP Leaders meeting which is a short one because of limited time available for the rest of the programs for today. A special welcome to those Leaders joining this meeting for the first time and to the distinguished delegate from East Timor.

Noting that we have only two hours, I don’t intend to take up much time, but I think it might be useful if I could share with you some brief remarks on where we are in terms of developments on the EDF, RIP and trade activities under EPA, PACER and PICTA.

As you all know, we recently faced the sad loss of our late Secretary General, and I ask you all that you kindly rise and take a moment of silent prayer in his honour and memory. (Observe minute of silence)

Apart from the National Indicative Programs (NIPs), we also benefit from EDF Regional Indicative Programmes (RIP). Under the 9th EDF RIP, our region was the best performer in the five year period up to 2005. This had encouraged the EC to extend a privilege tranche of some Euro10 million for good performance in addition to the normal 9th EDF financial envelope.

Under Annex 1b of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement, the EU is extending the 10th EDF to the ACP countries covering the period 2008-2013. For the Pacific ACP countries, except for one, all the Country Strategy Papers have been signed. By comparison, work on the 10th EDF Regional Strategy Paper (RSP) and Regional Indicative Programme (RIP) are still not finalized. This is a matter of concern to us as any further delays will disrupt the implementation of funded programmes. I urge leaders to seriously consider this concern when we come to consider it this morning.

In respect of the negotiations toward a possible Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EC, after an intense round of negotiations late last year, Fiji and Papua New Guinea signed an Interim EPA with the EC in order to preserve preferential access for their sugar and canned fish into the EU market from 1 January 2008. For the rest of the region, much work remains to be done to conclude negotiations on a possible comprehensive EPA by the end of 2008. Our Trade Ministers have reached an understanding on a regional approach to the negotiations and it will boost their confidence if that approach had our support.

Forum Island Countries (FICs) are also currently engaged in informal discussions with Australia and New Zealand with regards to advancing the PACER Plus agenda. It is important that the FICs have the appropriate capacity to support them in their ongoing dialogue with Australia and New Zealand which raises the point about the appointment of a Chief Trade Advisor for the FICs. Perhaps our Trade Ministers should hasten to finalize this appointment so that we can have access to proper technical advice.

Among us, the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) promotes free trade. In spite of the decisions and support of Leaders and Trade Ministers and assistance extended by the PIFS, progress in implementing PICTA has been relatively slow. Only six Forum Island Countries have announced their readiness to trade under the Agreement, and there is a need for us to make a concerted effort in ensuring that the remaining FICs give the implementation of PICTA a top priority.

Those are the issues in our agenda which are all important as far as promoting our relations with the European Union, Australia and New Zealand and among ourselves are concerned. Those relations as we know serve our broad interests in many areas relevant to the pursuit of economic development in our respective countries. At this point may I thank all of you for your support and together extend our best wishes for the incoming Chair, the Hon Premier of Niue.

Thank you.