THE negotiations of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Pacific countries and the European Union (EU) have reached a critical stage.
At their meeting held last week in Suva, Fiji, Pacific Trade and Fisheries Ministers agreed to conclude the negotiations as a single region by June 2014.
To achieve that both sides will have to make compromises and this is no easy task, particularly on fisheries issues.
“The reality is that we need fall back positions and flexibility if we are to make progress in these negotiations and achieve real gains,” trade negotiations envoy Robert Sisilo said.
“Like all negotiations, we cannot get everything we want and the EU will not get everything they want,” he added.
“It takes two hands to clap and we will therefore have to meet each other half way on some of these issues.”
Text Box: Robert Sisilo (second from left) at the Senior Trade and Fisheries Officials’ Meeting held prior to the Trade and Fisheries Ministers’ Meeting held last week in Suva, Fiji.When asked what some of these issues were, Mr Sisilo mentioned trade in goods such as the protection of infant industry, taxation, and the Most Favoured Nation clause.
He did not however make any reference to the fisheries Conservation and Management Measures of the region, particularly the Vessel Day Scheme (VDS), which the EU is insisting should be reviewed.
“The VDS is part of our national law and is applicable to all distant water fishing fleets without exception. It is therefore a sovereignty issue and Ministers have therefore agreed this is a no-go-zone in these negotiations.” Mr Sisilo said.
Mr Sisilo however still urged countries to harness, in regional solidarity and in good faith, the last chance they have and try to negotiate to the wire a comprehensive deal and only exercise some flexibility on some issues as a last resort.
“But for now we have the responsibility, and indeed we owe it to our people and our region, to negotiate the best deal possible,” Mr Sisilo concluded on behalf of his Trade Minister Clay Forau who could not make it to the meeting because of other pressing commitments.