Pacific Islands / Pacific Forum
The stalled negotiations on the EU-inspired Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the Forum Island Countries finally resumed in Brussels.
Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama says Fiji will pull out of the Trade Agreement negotiations.
Australia has been hoping that this week’s Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting will approve the formal start of negotiations on the proposed PACER-Plus regional free trade deal. But for months Canberra has been rejecting growing claims by regional opponents of a deal that its been unfairly pressuring Pacific nations to agree to the process.
Global recession, climate change and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) are expected to dominate the Pacific Islands Forum, a four-day program scheduled to begin tomorrow in Cairns, Australia.
Out of the nine resolutions made by trade ministers in the Pacific at their meeting in Samoa last month, seven were said to be concessions to their bigger neighbours of Australia and New Zealand.
Tactics employed by Australia and New Zealand to push Pacific Island countries into signing a free trade agreement are a form of “contemporary colonization,” said academic and respected analyst on Pacific Island affairs, Professor Jane Kelsey at a seminar in Auckland last week.
Despite the existence of agreements among the Pacific island states, intra-regional trade has been low, mainly due to the massive distances and the lack of products to sell one another. In the words of an official of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat: “The islands are hardly going to sell a lot of coconuts and fish to each other.”
In the Pacific region, only Papua New Guinea and Fiji initialled an Interim EPA mainly to protect their exports of fish and sugar, respectively, into the EU markets.
This weekend’s meeting of Pacific trade ministers in Auckland to progress the launch of PACER+ trade negotiations has all the hallmarks of an Australian and New Zealand ambush, the Arena network said today.
A trade deal between the world’s largest economic region, the European Union - and the world’s smallest - the Pacific - was never going to be easy.
Governments in Australia and New Zealand are keen to assure Pacific nations that relations with the region are marked by ‘shared development goals’, but as Maureen Penjueli writes, the islands’ ‘big brothers’ have been pushing an agenda of their own—especially when it comes to negotiating a regional free trade agreement.
Pacific governments have given early indications they will not sign the current Economic Partnership Agreement with European Union without amendments.
Concerns have been raised that the European Commission should allow Pacific countries to use export taxes for development purposes and that Economic Partnership Agreements should include adequate protection for infant industries.
The European Union has publicly assured Pacific island nations they are not at a disadvantage if they do not sign Economic Partnership Agreements.
New Zealand aid agency Oxfam is unconvinced by the European Union’s claims that forming Economic Partnership Agreements, or EPAs, will be in the best interests of the Pacific nations who choose to sign up.
The Pacific ACP States have reaffirmed their commitment to continue the negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union “as a single region” based on existing negotiating positions as agreed last March.
The Pacific members of the African Caribbean and Pacific group of nations that rely on aid assistance from the European Union say they will continue to push for a single Economic Partnership Agreement, or EPA, for the region.
Not all Pacific Islands countries are ready to open their doors to free trade under the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), according to the Pacific Islands ACP Trade Ministers’ Meeting that was held in Fiji this week.
Pacific Island countries, including Solomon Islands, have told the European Union they remain committed to concluding a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement by year’s end. And because not all of them will sign up to the ‘trade in goods’ part, they want to focus on issues where agreement can be easiest reached.
The Rudd Government has made much of its “new approach” to Australia’s island neighbours, but the view from the Pacific is that not much has changed.