Monday, 22 September 2008
Economic partnership talks: Pacific tells Europeans to focus on what we can do
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.
Robert Sisilo, leader of the Solomon Islands delegation at the talks in Brussels, gave details of the current talks and said these issues include:
principles to govern their relationship,
trade in goods including rules of origin,
and dispute settlement
It might also include environmental and social issues provided these are not subject to dispute settlement.
Trade in services is of crucial importance to both the Europeans and the Pacific, Mr Sisilo said. But differences run deep on the issue of temporary movement of labour.
And given the serious time constraints they are facing, the Pacific countries have proposed to suspend negotiations on services for the time being.
The Economic Partnership Agreement follows on from previous aid, trade and development partnerships between the European Union and the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group.
These were the Cotonou Agreement, and the Lomé Agreement before it. Both brought substantial benefits to ACP countries.
But there has been controversy throughout the ACP blocs over the current negotiations.
These have included claims the Europeans are trying to push an aggressive trade agenda that will not help developing country economies and industries.
Mr Sisilo said the Pacific Islands countries also told the European Union that they are committed to negotiating as a single region.
They have agreed that whatever Economic Partnership Agreement is concluded must reflect the differing circumstances and economic interests of all the Pacific group.
The Pacific Islands countries and their advisers from the Forum Secretariat have, over the weekend, been working on specific textual proposals.
These are for further negotiation with the European Union this week.