The Pacific ACP Trade Minister’s chair, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, called on the European Union “not to use global sourcing as a bargaining tool to access fisheries resources in the region”. The Pacific ACP ministers consider that, thanks to the global sourcing derogation to the rules of origin, the region will be able to attract on-shore investment, and develop their local fleets through fishing joint ventures.
In the negotiations of the comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Pacific ACP members are lobbying the EU for the extension of the global sourcing derogation to the rules of origin, to cover fresh and chilled fish fillets. In their view, this is a key component of a development-friendly EPA: “The EU needs to recognize the fact that each Pacific country has sovereign rights over territorial and archipelagic waters and we will not allow the EPA to be used to undermine these rights in any way… Our national, sub-regional and regional conservation policies are good – or better – than international measures and should not be undermined in the EPA.”
In its latest comment on this issue, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) Fisheries Trade News disclosed more information about this issue. At the Fisheries Technical Working Group Meeting held between EU and Pacific ACP delegates, “it appeared that the EU delegation’s principal interest was to raise concerns on the PNA [Parties to the Nauru Agreement] purse seine Vessel Day Scheme (VDS) and conservation and management issues. The EU delegation argued that they would like questions on the VDS and their concerns around sustainability to be answered thoroughly first and, following internal consultation, would provide their revised proposal on global sourcing.”
Meanwhile, the EC initialled an access agreement with Kiribati, which ignores the VDS – something the European Parliament Development Committee questioned, echoing concerns raised by Pacific ACP ministers. The Committee draft opinion underlines that: “The fact that the protocol agreed between the EU and Kiribati does not comply with the VDS is causing important tensions, both between the EU and some Pacific island countries and between Kiribati and the other Pacific island countries, with the latter voicing concerns about the EU acting in bad faith and breaking regional solidarity.” The Committee is proposing to reject the FPA [fisheries partnership agreement] proposed, and calls on the EC to re-negotiate the Protocol in order to incorporate “the provisions of any regional and sub-regional agreement or arrangement binding on Kiribati”, including the VDS scheme.
The key element for attracting on-shore investments in the ACP fisheries sector is the long-term availability of fish resources, and – when investors are fishing companies, as is often the case in Pacific tuna fisheries – guaranteed access for their fleets to these resources. Ensuring sustainable fisheries is crucial in that context. Therefore, close consideration should be given on how regional management arrangements – like the VDS – will promote sustainable fishing. It remains to be seen how the European Parliament Development Committee’s concerns about the EU simultaneously negotiating an access agreement with Kiribati (without a VDS clause) will be taken on board. It is worth noting that the Pacific ACP call is in line with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (Art. 11.2.7) which says that states should not condition market access to resources.