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EPA negotiations resuscitated, to conclude by May 2014
12:55 pm GMT+12, 17/12/2013, Solomon Islands

The odds for a swift conclusion of a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Pacific ACP States (PACPS) and the European Union (EU) received a decisive boost as a result of the last round of talks which took place in Honiara last week, according to a statement issued by Vanuatu’s Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce and Ni Vanuatu Business (MTTCNVB).
 
Fisheries and trade Ministers from Pacific Countries gathered in Honiara to meet with Karel De Gucht, the EU’s Trade Commissioner to verify whether conditions existed to overcome the outstanding contentious issues and deliver a mutually beneficial trade agreement. The feed-back received from DG De Gucht convinced the Parties to sign a joint roadmap to conclude negotiations by May 2014, before the mandate of the current Commissioner expires.
 
The meeting saw very significant progress on fisheries matters, the major cause of disagreement between the Parties over the past two years. Mutually satisfactory compromises were agreed on global sourcing, a set of provisions expected to incentivise the set-up of fish processing plants in the PACPS, and fisheries conservation and management measures.
 
On the other hand, De Gucht maintained a firm stance on the so called “non-execution clause”, a provision that allows the EU to discontinue the benefits provided by the EPA to non-democratic regimes.
 
The flexibility shown by the EU on fisheries matters is likely to play a very positive role towards the full reengagement of PNG, who had recently expressed very strong reservations about the possibility that the comprehensive EPA could provide the same benefits as the Interim EPA (iEPA), the free trade agreement between the EU that PNG signed and which was ratified in 2011.
 
During the meeting EU Trade Commissioner confirmed the information provided to Vanuatu’s Trade Minister in October 2013 that should PNG decide not to join the comprehensive EPA but to continue trading within the framework of the iEPA, then having two (2) separate EPAs would be an option for the Pacific region. The Parties, however, agreed that the best way forward for the region was to fully reengage PNG at the negotiating table of the comprehensive EPA.
 
The Vanuatu delegation was led by Marokon Alilee, Director General of the Ministry of Tourism, Trade, Commerce, and Ni-Vanuatu Business (MTTCNVB), and included Derek French, First Political Adviser to the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries, and Bio-security, Sumbue Antas, Director of the Department of External Trade, Moses Amos, Director of the Department of Fisheries, and Dr. Andrea Giacomelli, Senior Technical Advisor at the MTTCNVB


SOURCE:MTTCNVB/PACNEWS


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