BOTH parties seeking a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – the European Union on one side of the table and Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and the Pacific bloc on the other – need to take time out before coming back with revitalised goodwill and vigour in the negotiations. After ten years of shuttling back and forth between Brussels and the islands – not to mention the amount of resources spent on such an exhaustive exercise in terms of money and work hours invested – both groups have very little to show when it comes to measurable achievements.
That is if you count as an achievement, an interim agreement which negotiators now refer to as the iEPA (interim Economic Partnership Agreement) which Papua New Guinea and Fiji have entered into with the EU. However, Fiji, of late, has been singing rather consistently and much more loudly a tune of regret and a preference for sticking with its other island neighbours by opting instead for a cEPA (comprehensive EPA). Then there’s Kiribati which, like PNG and Fiji, broke ranks from its island brothers and offered to negotiate directly with EU member, Spain, a bilateral fishing agreement for its lucrative tuna resource.
Now, a decade on, Brussels wants a prolonged time-out from the negotiations – three years in fact. The Pacific nations on the other hand want the EPA negotiations to continue, only this time, under the leadership of politicians rather than officials. At a meeting in Fiji in July, Pacific ACP trade and fisheries ministers agreed for their Lead Spokesperson to write to Brussels seeking the resumption of negotiations.
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