2 Aug 2007

Pacific trade ministers reject proposed EU deals

2:12 pm on 2 August 2007

A meeting of regional trade ministers in Vanuatu has rejected an attempt by the European Union to push through economic agreements by linking them to aid.

A letter from the EU to the Pacific Islands Forum said 130 million US dollars of proposed aid would be dependent on Economic Partnership Agreements being completed by the end of the year.

It said 48 per cent of the proposed aid would be re-programmed if no deal was struck.

The ministers say they are deeply disappointed and have told the EU they will not accept attempts to link aid to economic agreements.

The Forum's deputy secretary-general, Peter Forau, says many countries are unlikely to be able to reach Economic Partnership Agreements by the year-end deadline.

Pacific countries are worried that the agreements will lead to them losing their preferred trade access to the EU, and that opening up their markets may cripple their economies.

A letter of protest has been sent to the EU in response.