At a recent meeting held in Cook Islands, Pacific ACP (PACP) leaders expressed the need for early resolution of the remaining contentious issues in the EPA negotiations with the EU. They emphasised that finalising the EPA will require commitment and flexibility from both the EU and PACP members. Currently Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG) are the only countries in the region to have signed an interim EPA, providing them, in the area of fisheries, with a derogation for ‘global sourcing’ of their tuna raw material to be exported duty-free onto the EU market.
The Spanish tuna fishing sector has recently underlined that, in their view, EPA negotiations should be tied to granting tuna fishing rights to the EU purse-seine fleet within partner countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs). At the same time, Spanish tuna processors highlighted that new industrial developments in countries such as PNG, Seychelles and Mauritius, are linking access to resources to investment in local processing. This means that the demand for raw material from these regions is increasing, leading to greater difficulties for the Spanish canning sector in getting access to raw material in sufficient quantities.
During a previous negotiation session in 2011, it was reported that the EU was linking the request by PACP countries for global sourcing of fresh and frozen fish to a 5% guaranteed access to tuna in their waters, which could be accommodated through the Vessel Day Scheme (the system of allocation of access to fisheries based on a number of fishing days). At that time, PACP leaders had emphasised that they did not envisage having much difficulty in meeting this 5% access guarantee, but added that any access by distant-water fishing nations and fishing fleets should be linked to onshore investments.
If an EPA has not been signed by October, a special meeting of the Pacific leaders of the ACP Group will be held.
The rapid expansion of investment in onshore processing, particularly in PNG, appears to be driven by linking fisheries access to such investments, rather than by the possibilities offered by global sourcing, as was earlier argued by the Spanish processing sector. Obtaining an extended global sourcing derogation, not only for canned tuna, but for fresh and frozen fish in the context of the EPA negotiations is however key for PACP countries, as this will help them diversify and increase their production in a context where preferences enjoyed by ACP countries on the EU market are increasingly eroded. However, linking investments or trade concessions to access to tuna resources, as is proposed in the context of the EPA negotiations, should be done in a way that ensures that the fishing effort on tuna resources remains at sustainable levels.