Solomon eyes interim EPA

More fracture in regional solidarity anticipated

THE tear in Pacific solidarity over negotiations for a free trade agreement with the European Union may soon widen into a serious fracture with news that Solomon Islands is considering signing an interim EPA.

If what a Solomon Island business executive told a regional conference in Fiji last month was anything to go by, then the Manasseh Sogavare Government would be the third country to sign an iEPA with the EU, after Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Charles Wickham, presenting a paper about SolTuna, the country’s sole tuna processing cannery owned by TriMarine, said his country’s Foreign Minister was seriously considering signing an interim Economic Partnership Agreement because of the concessions it offers.

He said the Minister has yet to publicly state the government’s intention, and he had confided the matter when he met members of the local business community recently. Contacted for a confirmation, permanent secretary for foreign affairs and external trade in the Solomon Islands, Ambassador Joseph Ma’ahanua didn’t rule out the possibility of an iEPA signup.

“Obviously, coming out of the recent Pacific Islands Forum Summit in Port Moresby, we stand with the outcomes from there, where we remain committed to Pacific ACP efforts to conclude a comprehensive EPA as a region with the EU,” Ambassador Ma’ahanua wrote in his electronic mail response. “However, bearing in mind the backdrop and realities in how the negotiations with the EU had progressed thus far, there is a point where we also have to look at options.

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