Resolutions and undertakings to build better trade and economic partnerships between the European Union (EU) and the Pacific has been reached following the successful 7th Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) Trade Committee Meeting in Suva last week.
Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Shaheen Ali. Picture: SUPPLIED
The two-day Trade Committee Meeting was complemented by a series of bilateral meetings between the European Union and the Pacific on the 4th and 5th along with the Meeting of the Special Committee on Customs Cooperation and Rules of Origin (SCCCROO) on October 02, and related capacity building workshop from 30 September to 1 October 2019.
The Trade Committee Meeting was attended by the Parties of the IEPA, the EU, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and the newly acceded member Samoa. Solomon Islands and Tonga were in attendance as observers.
This is the first time the IEPA Trade Committee meeting was held outside of Brussels.
Permanent Secretary for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Shaheen Ali, as the presiding co-chair, stated in his opening remarks, that trading beyond our borders was not a choice but a necessity for the Pacific economies, as our markets are too small to generate enough income to provide a decent standard of living for our people.
In Fiji, a number of reforms and initiatives have been undertaken to improve better linkages to markets, uplifting of standards, building supply capacity and strengthening trade facilitation at our ports.
ACP delegates at the 7th IEPA Trade Committee Meeting. Picture: FIJIAN GOVERNMENT
In this regard, Ali stated that Parties should facilitate and find solutions to the Region’s challenges through the IEPA. He further stated that trade agreements need to address sustainability issues that the Pacific ACP region is faced with.
“We, in the Pacific Region, require flexibility and consideration, more so than other trading partners of the EU, including the rest of the African Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) region”, Mr Ali said.
Ali adds that Fiji advocates one EPA for the region, the best EPA, an EPA that is development-oriented and which to the minimum addresses some of our core demands.
“In order for the IEPA to be the best instrument of trade between the EU and the Pacific, we need to consider incorporating the gains made in the Comprehensive EPA negotiations, as a first step, apart from looking at new areas like Trade in Services under the IEPA,” he said.
The Trade Committee also discussed key issues, such as trade and sustainable development, Pacific Regional Integration Support Programme, capacity building on Rules of Origin and the Pacific Kava project for the ACP commodities funding support.