17 Jul 2014

Fiji to apply interim EPA with EU

12:51 pm on 17 July 2014

Fiji's interim government says it's agreed to provisionally apply an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

It's a move that some observers say appears to be a back-flip by Suva, although the Fiji regime denies this.

The EU has long insisted that to protect its tuna and sugar exports into the EU markets, Fiji would need to ratify the interim EPA it had signed with them, similar to what Papua New Guinea had done to protect its tuna exports.

Until now Fiji had resisted the move, saying it would rather stick with its smaller Pacific island neighbours and push for a permanent and comprehensive EPA negotiations.

But in a statement released by the Fiji government this week, the Minister for Trade and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum said they are ratifying the interim EPA in order to protect its exports as well as to protect Fijian jobs.

A government release says it is a significant action that preserves the favourable market conditions for the foundations of Fiji's export economy.

The provisional application of the interim EPA with the EU reportedly allows for favourable market access for Fijian exports.

The government says Fiji's objective in the trade negotiations with the EU has always been to conclude a long term, mutually beneficial and development friendly Comprehensive EPA, rather than a shorter term interim EPA.

The minister said concluding the Comprehensive EPA, together with the rest of the Pacific countries in the African, Carribean and Pacific group remains an urgent priority.