Wednesday August 17, 2005 | Asia Pulse
PNG Minister Warns Over Tapping EU Funds
GOROKA, Aug 17 Asia Pulse - Continued delay by Pacific Island countries to negotiate a successful Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) could result in the region missing out in millions of European Union (EU) funds, The National reports.
If that happens, the African and the Caribbean countries, who are "more aggressive" in pursuing aid funds will push through and get the development funds.
This warning was sounded by Papua New Guinea’s trade and industry minister Paul Tiensten in Goroka in his address to senior officials of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting in Goroka, ahead of the Leaders summit.
"I think there are 50 million euros (K200 million) waiting to be drawn down from the EU, but what we need to do is to mobilize and move confidently towards tapping into those funds, then the African and Caribbean nations will move in to get it because they are aggressive," Mr Tiensten said.
"The South Pacific Forum Secretariat should be made accountable to the Pacific ACP states lack of progress and no efforts should be spared to improve our preparedness to negotiate a successful EPA.
"It is not just the trade and development cooperation with the EU but about utilizing the free trade agreement to influence the multilateral trading system of which we are committed to."
The minister was referring to the 50 million euro aid money the EU made available for the ACP group for common development purposes, which can be drawn down once conditionality such as EPA and free trade agreements between regional member states are concluded and comes into force by the end of 2007.
However, as an alternative, he urged PNG and other Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) members, which together constitute about 80 percent of total South Pacific Island economies, can put together a free trade agreement that "offers an opportunity for the European Union (EU) to negotiate with should the Pacific ACP process fail to succeed in its negotiation with the EU" by the set deadline, a call he first made this call at the Pacific ACP trade ministers meeting in Fiji last year.
The minister also stated that MSG-plus concept which was discussed last year at the trade ministers meeting would seek to integrate further trade links by MSG with other Pacific Island countries, needs to be developed as an alternative-encompassing and facilitating both MSG trade issues to regional trade issues.
"Therefore we need to critically look at the MSG-Plus concept and how it will work for us and the region," said Mr Tiensten.