The global-sourcing derogation for fisheries products benefiting Papua New Guinea has been debated in the European Parliament Committees for Fisheries and for International Trade, in order to prepare the Parliament’s recommendation on the conclusion of the interim partnership agreement between the EU and the Pacific states.
The Fisheries Committee’s opinion highlighted that ‘the derogation granted to the Pacific States, which is being actively used by Papua New Guinea, has made this country into a genuine hub for the processing of huge quantities of tuna from a variety of countries … given that most of these countries are direct competitors of EU producers, the scale of this phenomenon has caused considerable disruption to the canned-tuna market and constitutes totally unfair competition for a European processing sector that is already at an economic disadvantage owing to much higher labour costs and much tighter environmental and health and hygiene constraints’.
The Committee on Fisheries wishes, therefore, ‘to draw the attention of the Committee on International Trade, which is responsible for proposing the approval of this agreement by Parliament, to the harmful, inappropriate nature of the derogation provided … and proposes that the Parliament should call on the Commission to ensure that no further such derogation from the rules of origin for processed fishery products appears in the final partnership agreement with the Pacific States, which is still being negotiated’.
The issue was then taken up by the International Trade Committee, which, in the draft recommendation to be presented to the Parliament, draws the attention to the fact that ‘third countries – in particular China – have been investing in large-scale industrial projects in Papua New Guinea since the establishment of the new rules of origin, have massively increased their fishing capacity in the area and that this is set to continue, increasing the risk of over-exploitation of fish stocks’. It calls on the EC:
- to present to Parliament a report on specific aspects of the Pacific states’ fisheries sector as well as on the management of fish stocks in the Pacific including sustainable development practices;
- to initiate consultations;
- to enact the suspension of the exceptional arrangements regarding the rules of origin in the case that the assessment report proves the destabilising effect on the EU fish-processing and canning industry.
While aimed at allowing PNG to develop its processing industry, the global-sourcing provision is also strongly criticised for causing unfair competition and undermining the EU canned-tuna market. The European Parliament will vote on the IEPA according to a procedure which only allows approval or rejection without the possibility of modifying the content. However, concerns expressed here regarding the long-term impacts of the global-sourcing provision, and whether it will benefit social and economic development without harming the EU industry, will certainly continue to be voiced by the European Parliament when the future comprehensive EU-Pacific EPA comes to be discussed, and it will then be crucial for Pacific ACP countries and stakeholders to find the most effective ways of making their views heard in this debate, including through the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.