Remarks by DSG Fong Toy at TWG - FISH meeting




6-7 August 2012

Tanoa International Hotel
Nadi, Fiji


Permanent Secretary for Industry & Trade, Mr Shaheen Ali
Deputy Director General, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, Mr James Movick
Chief Executive Officer, Office of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, Dr Transform Aqorau
Senior Fisheries & Trade Officials
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, I have the pleasure of welcoming you to this Meeting of the Pacific ACP Technical Working Group on Fisheries. Due to the convening of SPC’s Special Governing body session, SPC would like to convey their apologies regarding their inability to join us this morning. Before I proceed with my introductory remarks, let me on your behalf, express our sincere gratitude to the Government and the people of Fiji for hosting the series of meetings this week relating to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.

2. The Pacific ACP region has been negotiating an EPA with the European Union since 2004, and we are at the final stages of the negotiations. The Pacific ACP Leaders have directed that the EPA negotiations be concluded in 2012. The meetings this week are the final preparatory technical meetings before we meet with the EC in October. We start these series of meetings today, with the Technical Working Group Meeting on Fisheries

3. Fisheries issues have been a key aspect of the EPA negotiations. When EPA negotiations began, the Pacific ACP States set the minimum outcomes they were expecting from negotiations as well as “red lines” to ensure that the EPA meets the stated objectives of promoting sustainable development and supports PACP integration into the global economy. In this regard, Pacific ACP Trade Ministers had directed that the EPA must address the region’s primary interests in the fisheries sector, including fisheries access, related terms and conditions, management and environmental issues, and development assistance, including measures to assist in the development of the region’s private sector.

4. As you well know, a key demand of the Pacific ACP region in the comprehensive EPA is the inclusion of global sourcing provisions so that all the PACP countries can potentially benefit from the EPA. Global sourcing rules of origin were discussed in the context of the general rules of origin of the EPA. We managed to secure a derogation from the rules of origin for products of HS headings 1604/1605 or canned tuna and cooked loins in the interim EPA in 2007 with the EC’s position being that extension of global sourcing rules of origin for products of HS headings 0304/0305 or fresh, chilled and frozen and dried, salted or smoked fish products was to be discussed in the context of the comprehensive EPA negotiations. At this TWG meeting, we need to discuss the full merits of obtaining the global sourcing advantage.

5. Access to our fisheries resources is the other major aspect of EPA negotiations. The Commission has linked its request for access to the Pacific region’s fisheries resources to the Pacific ACP States’ request for global sourcing and thereby complicating the negotiations. A number of other regional developments have since occurred further complicating the negotiations on fisheries.

6. Since 2009, a number of technical, officials’ and ministerial level meetings have been convened to discuss the implications of the European Commission’s position on fisheries. Fisheries and Trade Ministers met in August 2011 to consider the developments in the fisheries negotiations and reviewed their 2006 mandate to provide access to the European Union. They agreed that access would not be provided on a multilateral or regional basis to the European Union but that Pacific ACP States could offer access on a bilateral basis should they wished to do so.

7. At the direction of Fisheries and Trade Ministers, the Trade Expert Advisory Group was reconvened to further refine the Pacific ACP region’s negotiating positions and textual proposals. Informal discussions were also held with the European Commission in November 2011 on fisheries, amongst other things. A study on global sourcing was also commissioned by the Secretariat to assist members in assessing the opportunities and feasibility of Pacific ACP States exporting products of HS headings 0304/0305 to the European market. The work undertaken has assisted us to finalise our position on fisheries and a revised fisheries chapter and global sourcing proposal was sent to the EC in March 2012. We received the EC response at the end of June.

8. Over the next two days, you will assess the implications of the European Commission’s comments on the draft fisheries chapter and global sourcing proposals. It should be noted that the European Commission has responded to the 2009 version of the draft fisheries chapter and global sourcing proposal, rather than our revised March 2012 proposals. The Commission has confirmed that it is not prepared to give global sourcing for products of HS headings 0304/0305 without securing access to PACP marine resources. Furthermore, the European Commission has proposed to limit global sourcing to tuna species, instead of covering all fish.

9. The global sourcing study reveals that commercially, other traditional markets such as Japan and the US are more attractive for the PACPS and that the EU market is likely to be an alternative market for PACP products rather than the main destination for PACPS. Further analysis indicates that PACP exports of products of HS 0304/0305 to the EU would not in any measure threaten EU industries. However, in the longer term, the study notes that global sourcing could confer a number of direct and strategic development benefits to the PACPS. The European Commission has been very aggressive in its push for access to PACP fishery resources and its position on access is simply unworkable. What is of greater concern is that the development dimension of the EPA has been neglected in the negotiations and the approach adopted by the European Commission. Rather than awarding global sourcing to the PACPS for the development benefits that may accrue to the Pacific ACP States, the Commission has demanded a very high price in exchange for development.

10. In going forward, we should take note of the significant progress in the
renegotiations of the US Multilateral Tuna Treaty where regional solidarity of Pacific ACP States was a crucial element in assuring a positive outcome. The experience also demonstrated that the region has the capacity to negotiate with a developed country and secure an outcome that is in the best interests of its people.

11. Eight Pacific ACP States have submitted draft market access offers to the European Commission in 2011, with the other four PACP States close to submitting their offers. Many of these offers are contingent on securing global sourcing rules of origin for products of HS headings 0304/0305, amongst other things. While fisheries issues are a critical part of the negotiations, it should not be discussed in isolation from the broader aspects of the EPA negotiations.

12. This meeting is an opportunity for Fisheries and Trade Officials to jointly consider these latest developments, and re-assess PACP negotiating positions in light of these developments.

13. I, therefore, encourage you to have frank and open discussions with the aim of arriving at an agreed regional position to ensure that the region obtains the best possible outcome on fisheries. At the same time, we need to be realistic and consider what tradeoffs PACP States would be willing to make, in order to achieve their objectives.

14. On that note, I wish you well in your deliberations.

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