Attorney General and Trade Minister, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has called on the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers to question the method in which funds are disseminated by the European Union.
During the official opening of the Pacific ACP Trade and Fisheries Ministers Meeting in Suva today, Sayed-Khaiyum mentioned that the EU has made the claim that it is the second largest donor in the Pacific and a substantial amount of that is aid for trade.
He said the EU funding is naturally appreciated.
However, compared to the aid for trade provided to the African and Caribbean states, there is no question that the Pacific gets inadequate if not the smallest share.
He said they need to have in place mechanisms that involve them taking ownership.
Sayed-Khaiyum said this is why the establishment of the Pacific Regional Trade and Development Facility is so critical.
He said the Investment Facility for the Pacific lacks governance and transparency and the involvement of third parties and external agencies such as the Asian Development Bank, which the new EU Trade facility proposes, limits the availability of funds to the region.
The Minister for Industry and Trade said Fiji will not be party to an Agreement with the EU that may provide Fiji with short term market access but have a long term negative impact on our development aspiration as a nation and our ability to have control over our resources and economies.
He added that they need to make crucial decisions as a single unified grouping.
“We need to think beyond tomorrow, the next five years or the next twenty years. We need to ensure that our future generations are secure, hence we cannot or will not let a trade agreement diminish our ability to deliver to our people basic socio-economic rights which include the right to housing, education, health, food and the right to economic participation."
"Therefore, there is only one option for the region, and that is to have one Economic Partnership Agreement that has a strong development aspect and that does not impinge on our sovereignty and policy space we want the best EPA."
"Therefore we are at a stage in these negotiations where we need political will and decisions made at the highest level.”
He said it is upto the regional leaders to set the direction of these Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations whether to continue and finalise them by May or June this year or suspend them, keeping in mind that a new European Market will be elected in May and a new Trade Commissioner will take office in September.
Sayed-Khaiyum added that when negotiations resumed in 2012, the EU has failed in giving them an agreement better than the interim Economic Partnership Agreement as promised in 2007.
He said EU has made more demands in pushing the region to agree to what is on the table or go back to the interim agreement.
He said they want one agreement for the region, which will promote regional integration and not divide the Pacific ACP countries.