THE lack of management of Pacific African Caribbean Pacific countries (PACP — Pacific Island countries that are members of the ACP) affairs has contributed to delays in the negotiations of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (EPA) between member states and the European Union.
Permanent secretary of Industry and Trade Shaheen Ali said at the PACP trade officials meeting at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi on Monday: "The Pacific ACP trade ministers in Apia in January 2011 and Papua New Guinea in August 2011 discussed the lack of progress of the EPA negotiations and more importantly, the lack of solidarity to negotiate as a united regional bloc.
"Overall, our region has not been able to achieve the level of economic integration and success as a direct consequence of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, perhaps by third parties wrongfully excluding Fiji, a founding member of the PACP and an integral part of the region, from the Pacific ACP forums and other trade initiatives."
He said the Pacific ACP was an independent group underpinned by long-standing relations among 80 countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific and the member states of the EU.
"We should not allow third parties or organisations, such as the Forum Secretariat, to question these sovereign and historical relations. Nor should we allow them to drive a wedge between us.
"It is important that the Pacific ACP co-operates and maintains regional solidarity, in order to stand the best chance of successfully negotiating a comprehensive EPA — or any other trade agreement for that matter."
The trade officials are expected to finalise each country's position and strategies before they're endorsed by trade ministers in Tonga later this year. After the meeting in Tonga, negotiations for a comprehensive EPA with the EU will be conducted in October.