Fiji Times | Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Trade ministers to finalise deals
Senior trade officials from around the region will finalise trade deals as an extension to the existing Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement by October.
The chairperson of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers Meeting (PACPTMM), Hans Joachim Keil, said the Forum Island Country (FIC) trade ministers had officially launched the negotiation of a trade in services agreement as an extension to the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement.
The first round of negotiations, which started on March 31, ends tomorrow in Nadi.
PICTA, a Free Trade Agreement among the FICs that excludes Australia and New Zealand, covers trade in goods only.
Following an initial assessment on the cost and benefit of extending the FTA among FICs to include trade in services, the Forum trade ministers in 2001 endorsed in principle the integration of services into the PICTA, based on a gradual, flexible approach, with sufficient transition periods where appropriate.
A modality for the liberalisation of trade in services among the FICs was developed in 2004. National consultations workshops were held in all fourteen FICs from 2004 to 2007 discussing the provisions in the proposed modality for liberalizing services, and related opportunities and challenges to be faced by the FICs.
"In the next months, senior trade officials from the FICs will engage in national consultations and regional negotiations with a view to concluding a trade in services agreement as an extension to PICTA, by October 2008," the chair of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers Meeting, Hans Joachim Keil, said. "Given the comprehensive nature of the services sector and the complex issues relating to the scheduling of liberalisation commitments, the modes of supply and the regulatory disciplines, the ministers have urged the FIC trade officials to engage in wider consultations, with all stakeholders including the private sector and civil society, at national level as negotiations progress."
The negotiation of a trade in services agreement, among the FICs will cover temporary movement of natural persons, investments and other related disciplines. In May 2007, the FIC trade ministers, while noting reactions to the proposed modalities, endorsed that the draft modalities be the basis for the development of the legal text and negotiations among the FICs.
A draft legal text for the proposed trade in services agreement among the FICs was developed and circulated to the FICs in 2007.
A regional pre-negotiation workshop to discuss the draft legal text was held in February 2008 with the participation of FIC trade and legal officials.