Fiji, UK trade talks

GOVERNMENT and Papua New Guinea last week held discussions with the United Kingdom regarding the future of its trade relations after the UK leaves the European Union.

Permanent secretary for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Shaheen Ali said the three countries were not renegotiating terms of the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA). Under the interim EPA, Fijian exports enjoyed duty and quota-free access to the EU — a major export market for Fijian sugar, while Fiji opened up gradually to duty and quota-free EU imports.

Mr Ali said they were only undertaking a technical exercise to ensure that the IEPA framework could be legally applied to the Pacific’s trade with the UK, to ensure that there was no disruption to the current trade.

He recently led a Fijian delegation, alongside PNG to the first technical dialogue with the UK regarding the future of its trade relations after the UK leaves the EU.

“The UK has begun the process of exiting the European Union (EU) and in this endeavour the UK is working with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to avoid any trade disruptions, during and post withdrawal,” Mr Ali said.

“UK’s engagement with Fiji and PNG is under the current Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA) between the EU and the Pacific States.

“The discussions focused on the new Fiji/PNG-UK bilateral arrangement that will replicate the existing IEPA with EU, as a means to ensure continuity of trade.

“The parties in the next stage will look at further improvements to the existing IEPA framework, post UK’s exit from the EU.”

He said the parties also discussed avenues to advance, deepen and strengthen the current trade through improving the IEPA and also ensuring that it would serve the needs of the private sector and facilitate the integration of developing countries like Fiji and PNG into the global trading system.

The meeting was held in Brisbane, Australia last Tuesday and Wednesday.

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