"I am pleased to say that as your Lead Spokesperson on the Pacific ACP-EU Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations, we have made very good progress since we last met," said Tonga's Minister for Trade and Labour, Commerce and Industries, Honourable Lisiate ‘Akolo.
Minister ‘Akolo is also chairing the Pacific ACP Joint Fisheries and Trade Ministers' Meeting currently underway in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
"I wish to thank the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and its staff who have worked tirelessly to progress and implement the directions of Pacific ACP Trade Ministers from their meeting in February 2011," said Minister ‘Akolo.
The meeting of PACP Joint Fisheries and Trade Ministers seeks to consider various fisheries-related issues arising out of PACP-EU EPA negotiations.
Fisheries issues are one of the key contentious issues for the Pacific region in its negotiations with the EU.
"These issues must be dealt with if we are to take the negotiations forward," said Minister ‘Akolo.
"The work set before Ministers today will enable the Pacific to secure a meaningful comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, one that brings substantial development benefits to our communities and which will set a firm foundation for our future economic wellbeing."
As Lead Spokesperson on the Pacific ACP-EU Economic Partnership negotiations, Minister ‘Akolo plays a key role in communicating the region's interests to the EU on EPA negotiations and reporting back to PACP Ministers accordingly.
The European Union has been negotiating Economic Partnership Agreements with the African, Caribbean and Pacific States since September 2002.
The Pacific has been working on these negotiations for over six years, and is seeking a successful conclusion of negotiations by the end of 2011.
Pacific ACP Trade Ministers convene tomorrow to consider the outcomes of today's Joint Fisheries and Trade Ministers' Meeting, and to deliberate on a way forward for EPA negotiations with the EU.
Pacific ACP States include all Forum Island Countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Issued by the: Forum Secretariat, Article by Mue Bentley Fisher, Suva, Fiji, 2011.