10 Dec 2013

Pacific countries encouraged to firm unified bloc in EU trade talks

3:00 pm on 10 December 2013

Fiji's trade minister and attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, is calling for Pacific unity in negotiations with the European Union on a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.

Pacific trade ministers are meeting in Solomon Islands from today to prepare for discussions later this week in Honiara with the EU's trade commissioner, Karel de Gucht.

In talks in October the EU suspended negotiations after Papua New Guinea, which already has an interim EPA, withdrew from the discussions because it did not want to lose access concessions it has already won for its canned fish products.

The EU wants a single comprehensive EPA with the Pacific nations that are members of the African Caribbean and Pacific group.

The Pacific countries want the same benefits that PNG has in its interim deal but the EU is setting tougher conditions to be met.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says approaching negotiations as a unified bloc is still the best option because it gives the region the maximum leverage to achieve the most favourable deal.