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Friday, 26 July 2013

EU Suspends Trade Negotiations With Pacific Nations

The European Union has suspended the latest round of trade negotiations with Pacific ACP States (PACPS) on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the Vanuatu Daily Post informed on July 11th.
July 5 in Brussels saw the conclusion of a round of trade negotiations between PACPS and the EU on the EPA amidst serious divergences over a number of contentious issues, including the EU’s request to introduce significant changes in PACPS’ national laws dealing with the management of fisheries resources. Thus, the EU could not agree to the PACPS’ request to continue negotiations in September 2013, and asked for a period of reflection to consult their stakeholders.
The EU expressed strong disappointment towards the PACPS’ position that any issue concerning the management of fisheries resources should only be dealt with in the competent forums, i.e. the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). The EU’s request to use the EPA to address PACPS’ fisheries management appears motivated by the fact that previous attempts to debate the issue in the WCPFC did not produce any positive results for the EU.
In addition to the disagreement on fisheries issues, a number of additional topics were identified which could not be solved at technical level. These include major redlines advocated by Vanuatu’s delegation: to obtain special and differential treatment in terms of tariff liberalization due to its unique fiscal circumstances – Vanuatu requests to liberalize 70% of its tariff lines instead of 80% as requested by the EU; The request of Vanuatu to eliminate any binding reference to tax issues from the EPA.
In this circumstance, it seems little probable the 2012 mandate to conclude EPA negotiations by the end of 2013 will be in fact achieved.
EPA negotiations started in 2004 in the region with the objective of introducing a WTO-compliant system trade preference that could substitute the old trade preferences granted by the EU to ACP States. An interim EPA has already been signed with Fiji and Papa New Guinea (PNG).

Source: Vanuatu Daily Post