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By RACHNA LAL
The Permanent Secretary for Industry and Trade, Shaheen Ali, met with the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Secretary General, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas at the ACP Fisheries Ministers meeting in Nadi on Sunday.
Mr Ali said: “The meeting was to discuss Fiji’s participation in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Union, Fiji’s role in the ACP and Fiji’s participation in the Pacific ACP (PACP).”
He stressed the Fijian Government would continue to co-operate and work closely with the ACP Secretariat and ACP members on issues such as trade, climate change and sustainable development.
“The meeting reaffirmed Fiji as a founding member of ACP and continues to play an active role in the ACP,” he said.
“The hosting of 3rd ACP Fisheries Ministers meeting, for example, demonstrates this commitment.”
Mr Ali said it was encouraging to note the 37th Joint ACP-EU Council meeting, held in Port Vila, underscored the fact that the EU needed to give due consideration to the concerns of Fiji and the Pacific ACP (PACP) states.
“It was noted that they need to increase their level of engagement with the Pacific in the negotiations of a mutually beneficial regional EPA,” he said.
“The ACP Secretariat has supported PACP’s position that the Interim EPA is not the final solution as far as a long term economic partnership between the EU and PACP is concerned.
“Therefore, both parties need to work towards a regional Comprehensive EPA, which is pro-development and pro-trade.”
With regards to the contentious issues that exists in the Interim EPA, the meeting agreed these needed to be expediently resolved.
Mr Ali said this could be done through active engagement, discussions and the Pacific’s request for ‘global sourcing’ provisions for fresh, frozen and chilled fish positively considered.
“This is given the potential of ‘global sourcing’ to contribute to the socio-economic development of PACP states,” he said.
Mr Ali said the ACP Secretary General supported Fiji’s full participation in Pacific ACP meeting and activities, at all levels, as is her “state party” rights under the Georgetown Agreement and Cotonou Agreement.
“This was also important for Fiji’s effective contribution towards the finalisation of EPA negotiations,” he said.
Mr Ali said Fiji’s participation in the PACP was also crucial towards realising its share of regional European Development Fund (EDF) and Aid for Trade (AfT), thus should not be impeded.
He further congratulated the ACP Secretariat on the effective advocacy and lobbying, with the European Parliament and other stakeholders, against the European Commission’s plan to withdraw by 2014, market access for ACP countries (like Fiji) that have initialed/singed an Interim or Full EPA but have yet to ratify it.
It was agreed by both parties that “regional integration” was one of the central pillars of the ACP-EU Partnership under the Cotonou Agreement and essential to the well-being and integration of ACP countries into the world economy.