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   Government of the Republic of Fiji

  Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    A Better Fiji through Excellence in Foreign Service

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Media Release

Deputy Secretary Trade Opening Speech at the i-EPA Consultation

 
OPENING ADDRESS BY MR. SHAHEEN ALI,
DEPUTY SECRETARY ECONOMICS, MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS & INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
IDENTIFICATION OF IMPLEMENTATION NEEDS FOR THE INTERIM ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT : 13-14 SEPTEMBER 2011
DS_ET_iEPA_Consultation_edited
Adam Jannsen, Delegation of the EU for the Pacific
Dr. Claudius Preville
Experts from the Forum Secretariat
Distinguished representatives of Private Sector Organizations
Fiji Government Officials
Ladies and gentlemen
Bula Vinaka and a very Good Morning to you all!
 
I would like to express my sincere welcome and appreciation to all of you for taking the time to attend this National Consultations and to contribute to the formulation of national strategies to be adopted with regards to the implementation of the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement in Fiji.
I also like to acknowledge the European Union funded Tradecom Facility, Landell Mills Limited and Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat for providing the technical expertise and assistance for this process.
 
Ladies & Gentlemen, as you may know, Fiji is at a mid-way stage in its implementation of the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development. Our roadmap envisages enhancement of our international relations and regional integration as one of its pillars. This requires diversification of export markets and providing competitive advantage for genuine Fijian made products. Capitalizing on trade opportunities will provide the economic impetus needed to reduce poverty and develop the economy as envisaged in the Roadmap.
Realizing the central role trade and investment plays in infrastructure and economic development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last year embarked on a project to develop Fiji’s first Trade Policy Framework (TPF), with assistance from the EU and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. The draft TPF takes a holistic approach in identifying Fiji’s trade and economic interests for various sectors in international markets. It is in this overall context that Fiji places the signed Interim Economic Partnership Agreement and the current on-going negotiations on the Comprehensive EPA, as the main instruments to guide Fiji’s trade and economic relations with one of our vital partners, that is, the European Union (EU).
 
The architecture of Fiji’s and the  rest African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries’ trade relations with the European Union changed in the 1990s when the Lomé (and Fiji’s case the Sugar Protocol) preferences accorded by the EU to the ACP countries were deemed illegal by the WTO. You would all be aware that the ACP countries were given until the end of 2007 to come up with a WTO compatible arrangement, which led to Fiji and PNG to initial the Interim EPA with the EU, in November 2007.
The initialing and subsequently the signing of the I-EPA secured market access for Fiji’s sugar (in addition to global sourcing rules for processed fisheries products) into the EU market. These two commodities are of great significance to Fiji’s overall trade and in particular with the EU market which in 2009 brought in US$119.5million or more than FJ$217million in export earnings. This revenue from fish exports is expected to increase with the successful implementation of this Interim EPA, and the exploitation of global sourcing rules.
Comprehensive EPA (C-EPA)
Let me also mention that whilst Fiji and PNG committed to the I-EPA, the Region (together with Fiji and PNG) continued the negotiations on a Comprehensive EPA, which is the main objective in terms of our trade and economic relations with the EU. [The I-EPA is seen as the interim solution.] The C-EPA is larger in scope and has additional chapters, for example, chapter on Development Cooperation and Fisheries. The lessons learnt from this Workshop on the implementation of I-EPA will eventually be applied to the Comprehensive EPA.
In June this year, the Ministry also conducted stakeholder consultations on the contentious and outstanding issues in the context of Comprehensive EPA, the results which formed national position for Regional (Pacific ACP) preparatory meetings.
 
Whilst the focus of this Workshop will be more on the implementation cost of these contentious and other provisions, the opportunity cost and the restriction on policy space associated with these provisions should be kept in mind. 
 
Objectives of Consultations
Specifically, in the course of next 2 days, we hope to:
i) Identify the various activities to be undertaken in preparation for the actual implementation of the Interim EPA;
ii) Develop detailed action plans for these activities;
iii) Sequence the activities based on priority;
iv) Identify areas for external technical or financial assistance, and to
v) Strategize on the options available for these types of assistance.
In summation the main aim is to clearly identify the efforts and the resources required (both financial and technical) to fully implement the Interim EPA. This exercise will pave the way for our Ministers and Leader to decide on the question of the formal ratification of the I-EPA, through Cabinet.
This is only achievable with your support and cooperation as most of your agencies will be in the frontline of implementing and enforcing the I-EPA, once it is ratified.
Conclusion
I take this opportunity to wish you fruitful deliberations for the two days and hope that the Outcome will provide lessons that will be not only of value to Fiji but also to other Pacific ACP states, with regards to the implementation of the EPA.
With those few words I now declare this National Consultation Workshop on the identification of implementation needs of the I-EPA open. Vinaka.