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SG's Opening Remarks PACP Meeting Tonga
THE PACIFIC ACP LEADERS’ MEETING,
NUKU’ALOFA, TONGA
15 OCTOBER, 2007


INTRODUCTORY REMARKS BY
MR GREG URWIN, SECRETARY GENERAL OF
THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM SECRETARIAT



Excellencies, Presidents
Prime Ministers
Ladies and Gentlemen

Welcome to you all to this meeting of the Pacific ACP Leaders.

2. The agenda before us is very focused on the EDF and the EPA negotiations both of which have dominated the trade part of our work programme over the last 12 months.

3. Overall, we are pleased with the implementation of the 8th and 9th EDF Pacific Regional Indicative Programme. The 8th EDF projects are nearing their completion stage and the 9th EDF projects are more of less mid-way through implementation. Programming of the 10th EDF has been slightly delayed because it has become caught up with the EPA negotiations. It is however pleasing to note that at the most recent meeting with the European Commission agreement has been reached that we can now proceed. In the coming weeks, the RAO will be working with the EC and other key stakeholders who have been part of the programming process to finalise the 10th EDF Regional Strategy Paper and to start developing the programmes in early 2008.

4. In so far as the EPA negotiations are concerned both parties now appear to recognise that is will not be possible to conclude negotiations on an EPA Agreement by the end of 2007. In the most recent series of meetings, through September in Brussels, the Pacific ACP States and the EC have agreed to put in place a WTO compatible Interim Arrangement for our exports to the EU market, under the same preferential access arrangements that we currently enjoy. This Interim
Arrangement remains to be concluded by 9 November and will be effective from 1 January 2008. It will be in place until it is replaced by a comprehensive EPA.

5. The single largest and most important benefit that the region has obtained from the negotiations so far has been the continuation of existing market access for our exports of sugar, fish and tropical tree crop products. The rules of origin for fish have been improved. Under the new rules which have been only recently offered by the EU Pacific Island canneries and processors will be allowed to utilise fish from all sources. This should clear a major bottleneck in the development of the regional fisheries sector and, I understand from the experts, has the potential for creating a large number of new jobs in the region for those countries that provide a congenial investment climate. Significantly the EU is considering the extension of this change in rules to include fresh and chilled fish. This should bring significant benefit to those SIS group in particular which have no canning or loining facilities.

6. The focus of negotiations now is on the completion of the Interim Arrangement. In the up-coming negotiating round leading up to 9th November deadline for the finalisation of the interim arrangement key issues will need to be addressed. These include the extent of tariff concessions the region will be required to offer the EU in their goods offers, a dispute settlement mechanism and the nature of customs cooperation. We shall also be required to consider an important Most Favoured Nation provision which will have very wide ranging implications. Many of these issues will involve tough decisions by members in the coming weeks.

7. The EPA negotiations will continue in 2008 and it is important that we intensify our exchanges with the EC to conclude on such remaining issues as services, development, human resources development and a series of trade related issues. Well before the end of December 2008 negotiators are expected to have a final agreement in place.

8. On a final point, the EC is looking at strengthening its political dialogue with the Pacific ACP States, as envisaged by the Cotonou Agreement. It is proposing a Ministerial Troika every two-four years in Brussels and a Senior Officials’ Meeting in Suva once a year. The special dialogue we have with the EC on Friday 19th October will discuss the details of how this could be progressed.

9. With these few words I wish you well in your discussions.

Thank you very much.