REMARKS: Overview of Economic Partnership Agreement – Opportunities and Challenges the role of PIFS

By the Pacific Islands Forum Director Programme and Initiatives; Zarak Khan

8th December 2022 from Suva, Fiji

 

Honorable Minister, Distinguished Participants from the Private sector and Government, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It’s a distinct honor for you to having granted me the opportunity to provide some remarks at this joint National Awareness Seminar for Niue in progressing you efforts towards accession to the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement to the with the European Union.
We at the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat remain committed to our resolve to support efforts that expand economic opportunities for our member states.

Background
Not so long ago, specifically on the 27th 2022, the Government of NIUE wrote to my office seeking support through the EU Funded SPIRIT Programme to conduct an Awareness Raising Seminar for Government and Private-sector on IEPA Opportunities for Increased Trade into the EU and Procedures for IEPA Accession.
The Government of Niue further advised PIFS that the awareness seminar would be critical in advancing their intentions of commencing process of acceding to the EU IEPA. Unfortunately though this awareness Seminar had been scheduled to be undertaken in August 2022,due to unforeseen challenges this was rescheduled.I am happy to note that in the past week todate consultations have been fruitful and the Government has reached a decision to enhance the enabling environment for Niue businesses to expand opportunities within the EU market as well.
Niue as we know it is a Polynesian Pacific island country. Relations between the European Union and Niue are governed by the EU-ACP Cotonou Partnership Agreement, which will soon be replaced by a successor Agreement. Niue and the EU have often worked together on a number of common values, interests and challenges, such as climate change, oceans and human rights, which they address in bilateral Political Dialogues, at various ACP-EU policy dialogues, and at other multilateral levels. As a Small Island Developing State (SIDS) your economy is mainly driven by tourism which has seen growing development in recent years.
Presently you also benefit from the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) regime that reduces or removes import duties from some of yourexports to the EU market – the world’s largest single market. This system helps developing countries such as Niue to alleviate poverty and create jobs based on international values and principles, including sustainable development and human rights However this benefit can be expanded through a more binding legally robust arrangement under the Economic Partnership Agreement.As part of the ACP Pacific group, Niue can join the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) the EU has with Fiji, PNG, Samoa and Solomon Islands, if it wishes to export its products duty-free quota-free to the EU market. I am happy to note that a decision to progress on this path has been initiated in the past week at the national level.

Opportunities
The overall Opportunities within Economic Partnership with the European union include; Tourism is likely provide a crucial economic backbone for many countries in the Pacific including Niue. Iimproved internet access and connectivity will not only significantly enhance productivity in the Pacific and Niue, but also create new opportunities for Pacific workers to join global value chains.

Challenges
The main challenges are essentially how to address the tyranny of distance between Niue and the EU Market together with associated freight costs for Goods.
Additionally is the competition within the EU market of other product suppliers into that market.
The Spirit project under the PRISE framework has been set up to essentially assist in mitigating some of those challenges.
You will be hearing on specifics on how this can work for the benefit of Niue in presentations to follow later today.

The Role of PIFS.
The Pacific Island Forum Secretariat remains committed to supporting economic development of our member states.
We negotiated and have been entrusted by the European Union to provide an oversight role in implementation of the SPIRIT Programme specifically.
We continue in our efforts to explore other strategic partnerships for the benefit of our members.
We hope Niue will harness the opportunities under the SPIRIT Programme through a PRISE Framework for the three-year initial duration of the Programme.
Thank you and I wish you fruitful deliberations