iji has withdrawn from the Pacific ACP (PACP) meeting in Solomon Islands organised by the Forum Secretariat “as a matter of principle.”
The current meeting, meant to prepare PACP trade ministers for
discussions with the European Union (EU) later in the week, was called
by the Forum Secretariat before a full meeting of the PACP was allowed
to take place, in direct contravention to the path agreed to by the
member states. Only 6 of 14 PACP trade ministers were able to attend on such short notice.
In a very strong statement to his fellow PACP trade ministers who were
present today, Attorney-General and Minister for Industry and Trade
Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said PACP countries need to meet without the EU’s
presence or pressure from the Forum Secretariat.
“The Pacific Trade Ministers who were present in Brussels [in October]
had decided and agreed to meet separately in Fiji, not just for one day
but for the necessary period required to resolve and strategise on the
issues pertaining to the comprehensive EPA, vis-à-vis the outstanding
and contentious issues,” he said.
The Attorney-General said that such a meeting would also allow PACP
states to address the withdrawal of PNG from the negotiations in
Brussels, a crucially important issue surrounding the EPA negotiations.
The AG said that by calling “rushed” trade talks with the EU before
this meeting was allowed to take place, the Forum Secretariat clearly
has not fulfilled its responsibility to action the decisions of the
Ministers and the wishes of the member states.
“The Forum Secretariat is not here to act on behalf of the EU and they
should not dictate directions to the members but provide technical
advice and further our position,” [Sayed-Khaiyum] said.
The Attorney-General told his fellow ministers that the EPA was not something to play with or decide on the trot. “The reality is that the Comprehensive EPA in its current form has
enormous ramifications on our policy space, sovereignty and
development,” he said.
"It also constraints our ability to deliver basic socio-economic rights
to our citizens. The Fijian Constitution, assented to by the President
on 6 September 2013, provides for unprecedented socio-economic rights,
including the right to housing, education, health, food and the right to
economic participation. We cannot let any trade agreement prevent Fiji
from providing these basic necessities to our citizens," [ Sayed-Khaiyum] said.
He stated that only as a united region can the Pacific achieve a better
agreement that provides markets and at the same time ensures the
sustainability of vital resources for the betterment of all Pacific
[Sayed-Khaiyum] urged fellow PACP countries not to be pressured by the EU into
finalising a deal or into moving into an agreement that is less than
favourable and could have detrimental long term impacts.
“In this regard, we understand the urgency of Solomon Islands, who are
perhaps being pushed into acceding to the Interim EPA to secure market
access of their precious fisheries resources,” he said.
The Attorney-General said that they had reached a stage in the
negotiations where the PACP grouping needs the political will from the
“The region’s Leaders have been left out of the major developments in
the PACP region and the EPA negotiations. The PACP Leaders need to meet
and provide the mandate to us Ministers and Officials on the way in
which the EPA needs to be progressed,” [Sayed-Khaiyum] said.
At the meeting today, the AG repeated Fiji’s invitation to host a full PACP meeting at either the Leaders or Ministerial level. He concluded his remarks by saying that Fiji’s decision to withdraw
from the meeting does not mean that it is abandoning its regional
“We are and have been from the start, a strong advocate of regional
solidarity, which, perhaps has been to the chagrin of the Forum
Secretariat and our detractors,” [Sayed-Khaiyum] said.
“We are committed to negotiating a Comprehensive EPA, but one that is
favourable to all parties, has development at its core and which is for
the benefit for all our citizens,” [ Sayed-Khaiyum]said