Pacific members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) were urged Tuesday to wrap up talks on a trade deal with the European Union this year.
The Pacific island states should work towards concluding their Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU at the ongoing Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting in the Cook Islands, Secretary General of the PIF Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, told their leaders.
"It is already a longstanding series of negotiations. Noting the time taken since negotiations first commenced in 2004, as well as the significant regional effort and demands on its resources, it is important that honorable leaders now, at this meeting, work towards the conclusion of the EPA," Slade said.
"Making tangible progress and finalizing the EPA will require commitment and flexibility from both the EU and PACP (Pacific states in the ACP) countries. A re-emphasis on the original intent for a development-friendly EPA and improved arrangements to channel aid for the development of trade is of high importance."
Slade also told the leaders that they should pursue arrangements such as the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) "vigorously and more seriously" in order to be able to adjust to the pressures of a globalized economy and to be able to seize opportunities.
The PICTA Trade in Services Protocol was initialed at the Pacific ACP Trade Ministers Meeting in Tonga earlier this month, and the PICTA Trade in Services Protocol was submitte for approval, Slade said.
The agreements were significant in facilitating deeper regional integration, and unlocking the potential benefits of regional trade in services, he said in a statement.
The regional agreements would better prepare Pacific economies for the EPA and for negotiations with Australia, New Zealand and other developed countries.
The EU entered a series of EPAs with ACP blocs to help counter a decline in imports from developing ACP nations over the last three decades.
The Pacific ACP states are the Cook Islands, Timor Leste, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Fiji and Papua New Guinea completed an interim EPA with the EU in 2009 to liberalize trade in goods only.
The Pacific states main exports to the EU are palm oil and sugar, while their main imports are machinery and transport equipment, according to the EU.