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EPA Trade Talks

A Meeting will continue today to facilitate a way forward and find solutions to the region's challenges in the comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations.

Opening the meeting yesterday, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism permanent secretary Shaheen Ali said Fiji firmly believed this meeting was one where they needed to empower themselves, take back the control of these negotiations and charter their own course and the future of the economic and trade relations with the European Union.

"There is no doubt that Comprehensive EPA (CEPA) is important for the Pacific's relations with the EU, beyond 2020," Mr Ali said.

"However, the CEPA should not come at the expense of our regional integration, our policy space, our right of self-determination and our sovereignty."

He said they firmly believed that at this juncture they needed to remind the negotiating partners — the EU — that the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region comprised the smallest economies and the most vulnerable economies of the world.

Therefore, he said, it deserved flexibility and consideration, more so, than other trading partners of the EU, including the rest of the ACP region.

"There have been numerous developments since we last met April last year, here in Suva."

As a region, rather than leveraging their collective power, he said, they had been forced to accept what was on the table.

"This has been the result of unilateral actions of the EU, whether it's changing its market access regulations or suspending negotiations," he said.

Despite this, he said, Fiji had continued to advocate for and committed to the regional process.

"We want one EPA for the region, the best EPA, an EPA that is development oriented and which, to the minimum, addresses some of our core demands in fisheries and development co-operation," he said.

(Source: The Fiji Times)