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In his opening remarks to the Leaders Meeting of the Pacific states within the African, Caribbean and Pacific (PACP) group, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, encouraged them to conclude their negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) this year.
At the meeting in Rarotonga, the Cook Islands, he urged that: “Noting the time taken since negotiations first commenced in 2004, it is important that the Leaders now, at this meeting, work towards the conclusion of the EPA”.
Slade noted that “making tangible progress and finalizing the EPA will require commitment and flexibility from both the EU and PACP countries. A re-emphasis on the original intent for a development-friendly EPA and improved arrangements to channel aid for the development of trade is of high importance.”
The Secretary General also highlighted the importance of trade and cooperation agreements to the broader economic agenda for the Pacific region.
“Agreed arrangements, such as the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement, need to be pursued vigorously,” he added, “so that countries are able to undertake necessary reforms and adjustments and be better prepared to contend with the pressures of a globalized economy, as well as seizing the opportunities provided within the region.”
He concluded that intra-regional agreements among PACP countries would also better prepare Pacific economies for engagement under the EPA with the EU, and also with respect to undertaking negotiations with Australia, New Zealand and other developed countries.
The PACP states are the Cook Islands, Timor Leste, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Their main exports to the EU are palm oil and sugar, while their main imports are machinery and transport equipment.
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