The European Union has dismissed claims it threatened to cut funding to its Pacific partners if Economic Partnership Agreements were not reached by the end of the year.
A letter from the EU to the Pacific Islands Forum trade ministers meeting in vanuatu this week reportedly said 130 million US dollars of proposed aid was dependent on EPAs being agreed on by the end of the year.
Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group responded by saying they'd suspend negotiations with the EU if it cuts funding.
But the head of the EU Pacific delegation, Dr Roberto Ridolfi, has expressed dismay at the suggestion that the EU would use development assistance as a bargaining chip.
"I'm very surprised that this could be floated to the press and to the public. The EU stands to what it has always said. We have allocated considerable sums for the development purpose of the Pacific. We do negotiate with Pacific leaders, what they want to realise with our money for their development."