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Pacific, EU talking ‘aid-for-trade’

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Tuesday, 08 February 2011

Pacific, EU talking ‘aid-for-trade’

Last week, Liam Cochrane followed the developments from trade talks between the Pacific and the European Union, which have taken place in the Samoan capital of Apia. The first three days were devoted to talks amongst trade officials in the lead up to Trade Ministers holding talks on Thursday and Friday. These talks have been going on for six years now and there’s increasing frustration at the slow progress, especially on the key issues of whether to open up fisheries exports to Europe and how the EU will use development funds to promote trade in the Pacific, known by the slightly more catchy phrase, Aid-for-Trade. But any discussion of these specific trade issues was more or less put aside, because of a submission drafted by Papua New Guinea. The PNG Paper calls for a radical shift to the way the Pacific negotiates its trade deal with the EU. Currently, the 14 Pacific nations involved are advised by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. But the PNG Paper – or at least a draft version obtained by Radio Australia on the third of February – says there’s been a breakdown of trust between the Pacific and the Forum Secretariat. The paper said there was a conflict of interest among some of those involved, a lack of confidence in the legal advice given and no clear progress on trade issues. The Paper recommends the job of providing trade advice to the Pacific be transferred away from the Forum Secretariat… and be given to a body known as the OCTA, the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor. That office is headed up by Dr Christopher Noonan and the paper makes the point of saying Pacific States have “confidence and trust” in Dr Noonan. The OCTA was originally set up to give advice to Pacific countries about a trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand. Because Australia and New Zealand are members of the Pacific Island’s Forum… it was considered improper to have the Forum Secretariat give advice to both sides of the negotiating table. Commentators expressed the fear that the Forum Secretariat might favour Australia and New Zealand… especially because, as the biggest economies in the region, they pour the most money into the Forum Secretariat.

Source: Radio Australia