9 Aug 2007

British MPs downplay claims of pressure on Pacific countries over trade deals

2:49 pm on 9 August 2007

British parliamentary delegation currently visiting the Pacific has downplayed claims that Pacific countries are being pressured to sign trade deals with the European Union.

Pacific trade ministers last week rejected what they described as the EU's attempt to push through Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs by linking them to European Development Fund assistance.

This followed a letter from the EU to the Pacific Islands Forum reportedly warning that 130 million US dollars of proposed aid was dependent on EPAs being agreed on by the end of the year.

The EU later denied it had made a threat and negotiations are continuing.

A member of the British parliamentary delegation, Labour MP Elliot Morley, says EU aid is not linked to the trade deals.

"And the UK position has always been to open markets, to make sure developing countries have the opportunity to sell their products into markets like the EU and we believe very strongly in that in the UK, and that's always guided the position that we've taken in world trade talks."

British Labour MP Elliot Morley