(1st from left) The EU Ambassador for the Pacific, H.E. Sujiro Seam; and Dr Erja Askola, co-Chair, EU-Pacific EPA Trade Committee, DG Trade, European Commission, Brussels; and Dr Neelesh Gounder, USP Senior Lecturer School of Economics Faculty of Business and Economics
at the EU Trade Seminar.
A trade seminar to explore the benefits of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU), Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) to Pacific businesses, local exporters and importers was hosted by the Delegation of the European Union (EU) for the Pacific in collaboration with The University of the South Pacific’s School of Economics on 2 October, 2019.
The seminar was held at FBE Postgraduate Lecture Theatre, Laucala Campus, USP. The theme of the seminar was ‘Doing Business with Europe: how can the civil society and the private sector benefit from the Economic Partnership Agreement’.
The Economic Partnership Agreement is a trade and development agreement between Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU. The objectives of the EPA are to promote sustainable development and the gradual integration of Pacific States into the world economy.
The Agreement aims at establishing a free trade area between the parties through progressive liberalisation, taking into account the specific needs and capacity constraints of the Pacific States. The EPA covers trade in goods.
The EPA between the EU and Pacific ACP States was signed by PNG in July 2009 and by Fiji in December 2009. This Agreement has been applied by PNG since 2011 and by Fiji since 2014.
During his welcoming remarks, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP warmly welcomed Hon. Semi Tuleca Koroilavesau, the Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Fisheries; H.E Ambassador Sujiro Seam, Head of EU delegation for the Pacific; Dr Erja Askola, co-Chair, EU-Pacific EPA Trade Committee, DG Trade, European Commission, Brussels; Mr Moustapha Magumu, Coordinator-Pacific region, DG Trade, European Commission, Brussels; Government delegations from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Solomon Islands; and Representatives of the private sector.
He was pleased that this was the Ambassador’s first engagement with USP since he took up his new position.
He added that “for the School of Economics, this is our co-business and we want to foster those kind of relationships between private sector and the public sector.”
“Hopefully during the seminar, we will generate some innovative ideas,” said Professor Ahluwalia.
The EU Ambassador for the Pacific, H.E. Sujiro Seam said: “The EU is the world’s largest single market and the EPA provides for free access into the EU for products from Fiji and PNG. This market access advantage in PNG has triggered five new investments that have generated 50,000 new jobs, many of which are for women. Fiji has also signed the EPA and enjoys similar advantages. For example, duty-free and quota-free access to the EU market for processed fish, regardless of where that fish is caught.”
“In the Pacific, Fiji is one of the largest trading partners of the EU. Fiji’s main exports to the EU are raw cane sugar, other agricultural products and fish. The EPA offers opportunities for diversification and strengthening of our economic ties. It generates income and jobs in the private sector. It is a true partnership for trade and development. The EPA is one of the EU’s main tools to assist developing countries, such as Fiji, on their path to economic growth and diversification of their economies,” added Ambassador Seam.
Hon. Semi Koroilavesau said he was pleased to be able to join and make opening remarks for the Civil Society and Private Sector event in the framework of the “7th EU-Pacific Trade Committee meetings under the EPA between the European Union and the Pacific States.”
(1st from left) The EU Ambassador for the Pacific, H.E. Sujiro Seam; Hon. Semi Tuleca Koroilavesau, the current Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Fisheries; and Dr Erja Askola, co-Chair, EU-Pacific EPA Trade Committee, DG Trade, European Commission, Brussels at the EU Trade Seminar.
“The seminar provides the platform to gather views from state and non- state actors in promoting the role of civil society and private sector in EPA implementation while focusing on trade and sustainable development. It is our belief that the private sector helps create jobs and with that, Government is focused on providing a favorable environment for the private sector to create those jobs,” he said.
He further acknowledged the Delegation of the European Union (EU) for the Pacific and USP’s School of Economics for organising the important event.
Hon. Koroilavesau said the Fijian Government acknowledges the importance of international trade and its importance to Fiji in achieving sustainable economic growth, diversifying exports and generating employment.
“International trade also enables international competitiveness and endeavors to increase international trade thus promoting Fiji’s overall integration into global economy. In the Pacific, Fiji is one of the largest trading partners to the EU. The EU has been a traditional market for Fijian sugar. In the recent year, a range of Fiji exports to the EU has expanded. This includes fish and agriculture products, mineral water, garments and cosmetics that are exported to around 500 million people, Hence, the EPA offers opportunities for diversification and strengthening for our economic ties,” he explained.
He added that the EU is also the first market for fisheries in the world. Fiji and the EU share common interest to maintain the sustainability of marine resources. The EPA, which Fiji signed in 2009, provides Fiji products access to the EU with free tariffs and quotas. EPA also offers the possibility to use the waiving measure to source fish globally in order to produce canned fish or ‘global sourcing’.
“The strengthening of trade links and close relationships not only with governments but other stakeholders, inclusive of civil society has an important role to play to ensure that implementation fosters sustainable development and regional integration,” said Hon. Koroilavesau.
During her keynote address, Dr Erja Askola said that she was thankful for the opportunity to speak to the highly diversified audience.
“We have come to exchange views with each other and to know the things going on ground level. We are also here to know the types of challenges faced and how these challenges can be overcome,” she said.
“We are always keen to hear your views on how we would improve the ways we work and how we would develop our partnership in a way which is satisfactory and rewarding to the concerned.”
She added that the this seminar helped her to get replies on how we can ensure that we are promoting trade in a sustainable way, secondly how we can foster market opportunities for companies and thirdly how we can further develop our trade and partnership.
“Our trade relations have a very long history. We have fourteen years of successive conventions. Our relationship has evolved overtime in the Pacific. We have now have three members; PNG, Fiji and Solomon Islands. Tonga will be joining the Economic Partnership Agreement very soon. This is true partnership that keeps on extending,” she said.
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