Brussels, 16 May 2015/ FBC/ PIFS/ ACP: Substantive negotiations for a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Pacific Island countries and the European Union are suspended, according to the Head of the EU delegation for the Pacific, Mr. Andrew Jacobs.

“At the moment, the negotiations are not on-going. We are not sitting in a room, the European Commission and the Pacific partners, discussing negotiations on the comprehensive EPA because we have some up against a number of obstacles and we feel that until, particularly on the Pacific side, there is a clear direction that is decided in terms of fisheries stocks conservation and management, that it is unlikely these obstacles will be overcome,” Mr. Jacobs told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation.

The EU Commission has proposed a three-year deferment of the comprehensive EPA negotiations with the Pacific countries and seeks reforms to the region's fisheries management systems.
Regional spokespersons have voiced their "strong disappointment" at these developments, given that just last year the then-EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Baroness Catherine Ashton reassured leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum in Palau of EU's commitment to concluding the EPA process.
The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), Dame Meg Taylor said the European Commission (EC) made the decision without any formal political dialogue, adding that the EC "has not met the Pacific region in a formal face to face negotiation at senior officials level since October 2013 and has not met with Pacific ACP Trade Ministers for a formal negotiation since 2007."
She also decried the fragmented approach of getting larger Pacific states to sign interim EPA's, leaving smaller island states without the capacity to benefit from the agreement.
“The EC must recognise the asymmetric dimensions of this negotiation and must act accordingly and treat the Pacific region fairly by taking into account the interests of all Pacific ACP States, including Smaller Island States, in the negotiation on the development friendly CEPA, and refrain from focusing only on the major economies in the region – this is the essence of regional economic integration,” said Dame Taylor in a statement from PIFS.
Only Papua New Guinea and Fiji out of the 15 Pacific ACP member countries have signed an interim-EPA, and negotiations had been underway for a comprehensive agreement for the entire region. PNG and Fiji are by far the largest economies in the region, in addition to Timor Leste which is an Observer member of the Pacific Islands Forum.
– ACP Press