PANG warns against Fiji’s ratification of IEPA
SUVA, Fiji—- The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) has expressed concern that the government of Fiji has announced its decision to ratify the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (IEPA).
The decision comes even though Fiji is fully aware of the contentious toxic issues contained within the IEPA such as export taxes, the absence of a development component and its potential impact on Fiji’s ambitions and aspirations to express its economic self determination.
PANG has always argued that the Economic Partnership Agreement is against the fundamental self determining developmental ambitions of island countries of the PACPs.
“Ratification follows the unbalanced pattern of EPA negotiations. Fiji’s decision to sign the IEPA back in 2007 was made to ensure market access for sugar export. Now, seven years later the European Commission is again imposing deadlines that leave Fiji with little choice but to ratify. The European Commission has shown scant interest in the regional negotiations having suspended Comprehensive Negotiations at the end of 2013 – cornering Fiji into this decision. The decision by Fiji to ratify the IEPA is in PANG’s opinion a decision made under duress, Fiji simply had no choice but to ratify the IEPA or lose market access to the European Union – this is not a win-win situation, said PANG Coordinator, Maureen Penjueli.
She accused the European Commission for its strong arm tactics forcing many ACPs including Fiji to sign and ratify EPAs which do not favour development and are likely to affect regional integration agenda by this decision.
“The European Commission has always stated that the EPAs are about development, now 10 years of negotiations it is clear whose development we are talking about. The EPAs are about Europe securing market access for raw materials for its own development. Everyone following negotiations of the EPAs is fully aware that the value of EPAs has been declining due to the erosion of export preferences, the elimination of duty free market access to the European Union market for Fiji and Palau which comes into effect in October 2014, and the removal of sugar production quotas in 2017.
“The Fiji government, like many other ACP countries, are faced with the tough choice imposed by the European Commission of either ratifying bad EPAs or lose market access which could affect livelihoods and key industries such as sugar, fish, garments and processed foods. The decision to ratify the IEPA by Fiji comes at a great cost – losing the policy tools that many industrial nations have relied upon and sacrificing future development policy space, said Penjueli.
“Unless the Fiji government is able to re-negotiate the contentious toxic issues contained within the IEPA in the Comprehensive EPA negotiations the ratification may prove extremely costly in the long term for Fiji’s development.
Penjueli said Fiji’s decision to ratify may also affect the regional ambition of progressing Comprehensive EPA negotiations as it looks like Europe may have gotten what it wants from the region which is the two large economies – PNG and Fiji.