The Fijian government has always been an advocate of regional approach, says Pacific Asian Caribbean Pacific officials meeting chairperson and Fiji’s permanent secretary for Trade Shaheen Ali.
Ali denied claims Fiji was stalling Economic Participation Agreement (EPA) talks for their own benefit. Rather, he said Fiji's motives was to ensure all countries in the region benefit from any EPA that will be sealed, hence it must be comprehensive and development friendly to each country.
“As a region we can leverage the collective governing power of the region and negotiate a better agreement rather than going bilaterally," Ali said.
“We’ve always taken this approach and also our stance on the interim EPA, also relates to this approach."
He said the Fijian government always felt that if they ratified the interim EPA, it would dilute the regional position.
“At the moment Fiji is committed with the rest of the Pacific ACP countries in negotiating a comprehensive EPA. Fiji’s approach has been very much as an advocate of the regional approach."
The officials' three-day meeting ended yesterday during which they were tasked to recommend to the PACP Trade Ministers an approach that would ensure the region secures an EPA agreement that benefits all PACP member countries.
The ministers meeting starts in Suva today.