FIJI wants the comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to be without political considerations or constraints in accordance with the World Trade Organisation principles.
Attorney-General, Industry and Trade Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said Fiji wants the EPA to be fair and not to include “political” elements.
“The position that we have taken on the EPA is that the EPA needs to be fair, in respect of some of the conditions that have been put in,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.
“We can’t have political issues tied in with an EPA. You might as well call it an economic and political agreement.”
Permanent secretary Industry and Trade, Shaheen Ali explained that the non-execution clause had been included in the EPA, which brings in political elements which puts legal uncertainty into the agreement.
“...which means whatever market access you agree to, because of the existence of the non execution clause, at any point and time, it may be decided that they may withdraw those. So this is where it is the Fiji govt thinks it as a concern,” Mr Ali explained.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said an EPA must say what it was.
For example, in trade agreement where there are certain rules on certain goods having duty free access, ancillary issue that are non-trade related cannot have a bearing on the agreement.
He added that with the ACP-EU meeting in Vanuatu, a group approach was being taken but within the specific regions there were differences.
For example, he added that the smaller countries in the region such as Kiribati, Tuvalu or Niue, the EPA was completely irrelevant to them.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said for Fiji, the main linkage was sugar and fisheries.
However, from 2015 sugar would be subject to quotas.
Mr Ali said with the comprehensive EPA, the Fiji government had an opportunity to negotiate and raise this concern with the EU.
“...we want to have an EPA that is in line with the World Trade Organisation — it advocates free and fair trade without any political considerations or constraints. This is what we want the EPA to be,” Mr Ali said.
The Fiji government is however hopeful that an agreement could be reached.