Pacific civil society groups challenge EU over trade negotiations
The challenge was put to the EU this week at the Pacific Trade and Education Program by participants from Pacific civil society groups, in Apia, Samoa.
Chief executive officer of Samoa Umbrella for Non Governmental Organisations (SUNGO), Roina Vavatau, took a swipe at the EU, saying it has failed to live up to its rhetoric that the Economic Partnership Agreement should be an instrument for development.
"Despite repeated letters over the past nine months, the EU has still so far failed to respond constructively to the Pacifics proposals. It is ridiculous that they are still insisting on a deadline for conclusion of negotiations by the end of this year," Ms Vavatau said.
Participants agreed with the Mid-Term Review of the EPA negotiations commissioned by the Pacific Trade Ministers, using a highly respected European research institute, which concluded that the Pacific and EU were still far apart in negotiations and that the Pacific was not ready to conclude a deal by the end of the year.
The review laid much of the responsibility at the feet of the EU, criticising their insistence on an inflexible free trade agreement.
The WTO waiver granted to the Cotonou Partnership Agreement expires on 31st December 2007. This deadline only applies to trade in goods.
Negotiations on other aspects, in particular the complex issues of services, can be concluded when the Pacific region is ready, when adequate research, impact assessment and consultations are undertaken.
The chairperson of the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), Fe'iloakitau Kaho Tevi said the EU is playing negotiating games and he finds these negotiating tactics unacceptable.
"It is unacceptable to risk peoples livelihoods, vital jobs for young people and the future sustainability of Pacific societies in the course of negotiating a trade agreement that is supposedly in the development interests of the Pacific Island countries." Mr Tevi said.
The meeting which concluded on Wednesday has reiterated the concerns expressed by over a hundred Pacific civil society groups over the likely social, cultural, gender, environmental and economic impacts of an EPA Agreement.
The participants have called for suspension of further negotiations between the Pacific and the EU until the results of the recently initiated social impact assessment are fully incorporated into negotiating positions.
Source: Fiji Times