Welcome Remarks by DSG Fong Toy at the Pacific ACP Trade and Fisheries Officials Meeting, 7-9 April, Suva, Fiji





7-9 APRIL 2013







  • Mr Shaheen Ali, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Industry & Trade
  • Ms Fekitamoeloa Katoa 'Utoikamanu, Deputy Director General, Secretariat of the Pacific Community
  • Your Excellencies, Pacific Ambassadors from Brussels,
  • Representatives of the Oceania Customs Organisation, Office of the Chief Trade Adviser, and Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency
  • Senior Fisheries and Trade Officials
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

Bula and welcome to the Pacific ACP Trade and Fisheries Officials meeting.

2. I thank the Deputy Director General of SPC for her Welcoming Remarks. Let me also at the outset thank the Government of Fiji for hosting the series of meetings this week.  I am sure that during the week we will experience the famous Fijian hospitality.

3. On behalf of the Secretary General, I would like to express the Secretariat’s deepest sympathies to the people of Solomon Islands suffering from the flooding disaster resulting in the tragic loss of lives.

4. Colleagues, we meet today to focus primarily on the Pacific ACP – European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.  We are at a critical juncture on the road to the comprehensive EPA. We undertook this journey in 2004 when the negotiation of the EPA was launched for the Pacific region. A decade later, we are still negotiating the EPA.  

5. We have some difficult decisions ahead of us, for which we need robust discussions at this meeting so that appropriate recommendations can be made for Ministers’ consideration. As representatives of your country, you will need to assess the benefits and the risks that each issue presents to you and how a collective decision can benefit the Pacific ACP region as a whole.

6. The Secretariat and other technical experts will provide their views on the issues, but the decisions will be for the countries to make on how we are to proceed to reach an agreement that is beneficial to all the PACPS.

7. We are fully aware of the difficulties we have had in the EPA negotiations, and we need to reflect on them as we go forward. We need to have very frank discussions on each and every issue regarding the EPA. We need to determine how the EPA negotiations are to continue, and for us to clearly indicate our absolute absolute red lines. The European Union has given us some indications on the flexibilities, but we need to assess whether those flexibilities are enough to go forward with another round of negotiations. We need to look at all the contentious issues before we determine our position.

8. Allow me to touch on a few key matters. First, we need to be fully aware of the time pressures and the key decision points. The Pacific ACP Leaders’ standing decision is for the early conclusion of the EPA.

9. The election of the European Union Parliament in May 2014, and the expiration of the Trade Commissioner’s term in September 2014 could delay the processes and conclusion of the negotiations and presents the risk of losing momentum in the EPA negotiations, making it important that we act swiftly in our decision making on EPA.

10. However, in December 2013, the EU Trade Commissioner and the Pacific ACP Ministers agreed to a roadmap for the conclusion of the EPA by May 2014. This commitment to a timeline had been sought by Pacific ACP states and we need to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunities that it presents.

11. The other important time pressure on us is the Market Access Regulation 1528/2007 imposed by the European Union with an October 2014 deadline. For parties to meet this deadline, and noting the important notification requirements, we understand that the decision point for engagement in the Interim EPA would be around May 2014. We call on the European Union to support the timely conclusion of an EPA that is beneficial to all parties.

12. Second, we need to reflect on the important developments at the Special PACP Ministerial Meeting with the European Union Trade Commissioner in Honiara in December 2013. The European Union Trade Commissioner’s assurance on protecting Papua New Guinea’s interests as contained in the Interim EPA provides a positive basis for engagement. The canning operations in Papua New Guinea speak for themselves. The processing facilities currently operating in Kiribati are also a good example of the economic and development benefits that could be achieved even in the smaller island states. The EPA has the potential to support real regional economic integration among the PACP States, including support for the smallest of our Members.

13. Fisheries are a common resource to all the Pacific ACP States and we should ensure that the EPA provisions allow for its sustainable development, and that the benefits of fisheries trade accrue to the people of the Pacific. In going forward in the EPA negotiations, we need to take into account the best modality for engagement and find areas in which we can show flexibility without seriously compromising our interests.

14. Thirdly, we need to re-strategise our engagement in the EPA and build on past experiences. As a region, we have tried to negotiate an EPA that serves the PACP region best. We should continue to strive for the most beneficial deal taking into account the flexibilities we can expect and the adjustments that we can make.

15. The region is strongest when we all stand together and not allow others to use divisive tactics to delay the negotiations and lead to the inevitable consequence of Pacific ACP States having only the option of the interim EPA.  We need to move forward as a region if we want a development oriented comprehensive EPA for all Pacific ACP States.

16. I urge you to discuss all the issues thoroughly and consider solutions that will ensure that everyone benefits from an EPA that addresses our current and future needs.

17. I wish you all the best in your deliberations.


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