FSMR&D (October 25, 2013): A meeting of a core group of Senior Trade and Fisheries Officials from the Pacific-African, Caribbean, and Pacific (PACP) Group and the European Commission (EC) was held on October 14-15, 2013 with a Trade and Fisheries Ministerial on October 17, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium to further discuss the comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
Before the formal meetings took place, Papua New Guinea, the biggest EU trading partners in the Pacific Region and the only PACP that has ratified and implemented the interim EPA (iEPA), formally announced that it was withdrawing itself from the comprehensive EPA negotiations. PNG’s main reason was that the comprehensive EPA, as it stands so far, does not provide enough guarantee than what was secured in the iEPA. In addition PNG, like many other countries that are members to the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), is not in favor of conservation and management measures of fisheries resources being discussed in the EPA negotiations.
Following PNG’s withdrawal from the comprehensive EPA negotiations, the EC questioned the relevance of pursuing the negotiations of a comprehensive EPA with the PACPS without the participation of the key player in the PACP Region. As a direct consequence, the meeting of Senior Trade and Fisheries Officials of both Parties on Trade in Goods and Fisheries was suspended. Nevertheless, both Parties agreed to hold an informal meeting to exchange information and share policy objectives on conservation and management of fisheries resources.
At the outset of the informal meeting, the EC stated that is was committed to development in the Pacific including the granting of flexible rules of origin to PACPS for access of their fisheries products into the EU market; however, this must be in a sustainable manner, and should particularly be in line with the recent EU Fisheries Strategy in the Pacific Region adopted by the EU Parliament. For the EC, PACP demands in the comprehensive EPA negotiations (mainly the extension of global sourcing fisheries rules of origin to fresh and frozen fish fillets) were viewed as excessive by its stakeholders; raising endless questions on the implications for fish stocks and the EU industries. According to EC Senior Officials, stakeholders in the EU, in particular the EU Parliament, were expecting commitments from PACPS on conservation and management of fisheries resources, and not just statements of intention.
PACP Senior Officials assured the EC that conservation and sustainable management was a major concern for PACPS given that fisheries resources are their primary and only resource in most cases. PACPS informed the EC that they have taken the steps to develop conservation and management measures (CMMs) that are based on scientific information at the sub-regional and regional level and that such management measures would be better addressed in the context of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and not in the EPA. However, PACPS indicated that they were willing to undertake commitments regarding the transparency of their conservation and management measures. PACPS also reiterated that they will abide by the principle of non-discrimination regarding the management of their fisheries resources.
After explanations and clarifications were given from both sides, the EC reiterated that negotiations for the comprehensive EPA would remain suspended until two key issues are resolved: 1.) PNG participates in the comprehensive EPA negotiations; and 2.) PACPs making commitments to conservation and sustainable management in the EPA.
The FSM was a part of the core group that met with the EC in Brussels to represent the Freely Associated States (FSM, Republic of Marshall Islands, and Palau). Its representatives were Mr. Marion Henry, Secretary of the FSM Department of Resources and Development (FSM R&D), Mr. Eugene Pangelinan, Deputy Director for NORMA, Mrs. Camille Movick-Inatio, Assistant Secretary for Trade and Investment (FSM R&D), and Mr. Jean Bertrand Azapmo, Trade Policy Adviser (FSM R&D).
For more information, contact FSM R&D at (691) 320-5133 or email@example.com