Pacific nations involved in negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union are being warned that while it’s important negotiations are soon concluded, it’s more important to get the right outcome.
Pacific nations that are part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific group have been in talks with the EU to reach an EPA agreement since 2002, with talks said to now be at a critical stage.
Only Papua New Guinea and Fiji have signed interim EPAs to access markets in the sugar and fisheries sector, but a comprehensive agreement for all other Pacific ACP countries is yet to be agreed on.
The University of Auckland’s Dr Steven Ratuva says it’s important for the Pacific island states to win as much concession as they can in terms of aid from the EU to fund the capacity to export.
“Because they don’t have much by way of resources, they don’t have much by way of economic capability. So whatever negotiation is concluded it has to make sure that it develops their capacity, rather than simply to be part of an agreement which they won’t benefit from in the long run.”
Meanwhile, Pacific Island nations are being encouraged to push for labour provisions as part of the Economic Partnership Agreement that’s being negotiated with the European Union.
Dr Ratuva says he’d like to see an agreement that is similar to the seasonal workers scheme with Australia and New Zealand.
“Not only liberalise the movement of goods, also the movement of labour. So the same thing for Pacific workers who should be able to have visas to go and work in Europe as part of the EPA agreement. I think it’s very important for our workforce to be able to do that. Not only in terms of provision of cheap labour like in NZ they can pick apples and all sorts of things for unskilled labour, but for more if you like, high value, technical labour.”
Dr Ratuva says the Pacific has a good skilled labour force which can benefit a lot from working in Europe.