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Tuesday, April 08, 2014

FIJI needs to to put together a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement in two months if it is to continue having preferential market access to European Union markets, the Pacific-African Caribbean Pacific trade and fisheries meeting heard yesterday.

Otherwise, Ministry of Industry and Trade permanent secretary Shaheen Ali says the country is faced with the stark reality of losing preferential market access or be subjected to a less-than-favourable trade agreement if the comprehensive economic partnership agreement is not concluded by June this year.

This would mean the termination of duty-free provisions and quota-free market access on all products from Fiji, except for sugar and rice to the European Union.

Speaking at the opening of the Pacific African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) trade and fisheries officials meeting in Suva, Mr Ali said this would happen with the withdrawal of market access regulations 1528 on October 1.

However, he said, the Fijian Government would ensure its people, especially in the sugar industry, continued to enhance their livelihoods and are not adversely impacted by their trading partners.

"We will not be party to an agreement that may provide short-term market access but have a long-term negative impact on our development aspirations," he said.

"Some countries are being pressured into finalising a deal at any cost or agreeing to an agreement that is less than favourable and could have detrimental long-term consequences for our peoples."

Economist Professor Biman Prasad said the EPA with the EU was very important and losing market access to the EU would have an impact on Fiji's key exports.

"The market and negotiations are very important, and so is having a good agreement with the EU," Prof Prasad said.

Representatives from 14 Pacific ACP states are expected to continue deliberations today on the comprehensive EPA in Suva.

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