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Fiji pulls out

Tevita Vuibau
Wednesday, December 11, 2013

FIJI has withdrawn from the Pacific ACP meeting in the Solomon Islands organised by the Forum Secretariat, saying the PACP should not be pressured by the EU into making agreements that can have detrimental long-term impacts.

The meeting was meant to prepare PACP trade ministers for trade discussions with the EU on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

However, the Fiji Government said the meeting was called before a full meeting of the PACP was allowed to take place, in direct contravention to the path agreed to by the member states.

After the breakdown in the Brussels talks PACP countries agreed to meet separately in Fiji to regroup and iron out contentious issues before further talks on the EPA with the EU.

The government said only six of the 14 ACP countries were able to attend the Solomon Islands meet at such short notice.

Trade negotiations on the EPA have already been the cause for some division among the PACP states after Papua New Guinea withdrew from the initial discussions in Brussels.

Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told fellow ministers at the meeting that PACP countries needed to meet without the EU's presence or pressure from the Forum Secretariat.

"We have now reached a point where the finalisation of the negotiations is very important for some PACP states.

"Some countries are being pressured into finalising a deal at any cost or moving to an agreement that is less than favourable and could have detrimental long-term impact on our countries," he said referencing pressure on the Solomon Islands to accept the interim EPA.

"I would at this juncture, like to state that the Forum Secretariat is not here to act on behalf of the EU and they should not dictate directions to the members but provide technical advice and further our position.

"And I would like to state that from my observations from Brussels, the forum has been non-transparent and has not played the role of the secretariat or carried out in honesty and sincerity the decisions of the ministers and the wishes of the member states. Chairman, fellow ministers, I have come here with a message that the EPA is not something to play with or to decide on the trot."

He said the PACP countries did not have the technical capacity of the ACP countries and therefore had to use their strength in numbers and in unity.

He said Fiji's decision to withdraw from the meeting did not mean it was abandoning its regional neighbours.