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BREAKING NEWS: EU Tuna Industrials Want PNG Tuna Agreement Stopped

INTERATUN alerts about the hecatomb that the granting of more benefits to Papua New Guinea would represent to European Communitarian tuna industry.

This decision, which will be addressed in the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of the EU on Monday, July 13th, would put the fleet and the cannery industry in a critical situation; reason for an appeal to the responsibility of the European Commission to suspend approval.

The tuna industry is working against time to try to prevent the approval of this agreement.

The Council Agriculture and Fisheries is scheduled to be held in Brussels next Monday, July 13th, during which it is expected the Economic Partnership Agreement with the Pacific be approved; an agreement that will  apply to those countries that have signed their Interim Accord, which are Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Within the negotiation of Economic Partnership Agreement with the Pacific, one of the main factors that the negotiations have focused on has been the repeal of the rules of origin for goods under tariff group number 1604 made from tuna, which directly affects this very sensitive product to both the Communitarian tuna industry and GSP +, as well as other ACP countries.

Papua New Guinea based its negotiations for the revocation of these rules of origin on the grounds of a  supposed lack of supply of tuna from EU or ACP origin, as a key limiting factor for the development of its industry. The revocation of rules of origin would allow its products -based on processed tuna- to access the European Union  (EU) free of duty regardless of their origin. At present, only the tuna caught by the fleets from EU or ACP countries benefit from duty-free access. Therefore, all tuna –as well as its derivates- from Papua New Guinea and Fiji are entering the EU free of import tariff.

This supposed lack of supply of tuna does not correspond with the reality, as evidenced by the fact that PNG tuna catches exceeded 200,000 tons in the year 2007 (according to Fishstat/FAO data). Also, the exports of processed tuna from  to this country to the EU that year amounted to 763 tons of tuna loins and 16,299 tons of canned tuna (according to EUROSTAT data). Then, if we estimate a 35% return on the tuna caught by PNG, the actual raw material needed to process the loins and canned tuna exported to the EU would be less than 50,000 tons, whereas PNG catches alone exceed 200,000 tons. This means that PNG have sufficient catch to quadruple its production of loins or canned without the need of further supply.

Analyzing the latest news regarding investments of various countries of Southeast Asia in Papua New Guinea, one can easily verify that this repeal rather than encourage the development of this country, encourage new investments by major competitors of the tuna industry cluster of the EU, ACP and GSP +, thus of Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan and China. These countries carry their investments in Papua New Guinea in exchange for fishing licenses, increasing their infiltration in the EU market and exerting greater pressure on the resources in the Western and Central Pacific Oceans, with the addition of new vessels that could endanger the sustainability of the tuna resources in these oceans.

It is well known that Papua New Guinea has been strongly opposed to the access of the EU fleet to the Western and Central Pacific Oceans since the first negotiations in 1997. Therefore, if its real intention was to ensure its national supply of tuna with Papua New Guinea qualified origin, it could have favored the access of the EU fleet to this area and not that of EU’s competitors like Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and China.

China currently is developing a major purse seine tuna fleet. It will increase its number of vessels from the current 5 to a total of 15 by the end of this year and expects to reach 30 vessels within two years time, while the EU fleet has been constrained to operate in that area since 2000 with only 4 vessels.

Therefore, these Southeast Asian countries, which are the major competitors to the Spanish and Communitarian tuna industry, are ensuring a excellent gateway for their products in the EU, with the consequent severe damage to the tuna industry, not only in the EU but also in those other ACP and GSP + countries where the EU member countries have made –and are still making- huge investments.

It is therefore incomprehensible that the EU is endangering the competitiveness and future viability of the entire Communitarian tuna industry and the tuna industry located in the countries covered by the ACP and GSP + regime, simply to allegedly encourage the economic development of a single country such as Papua New Guinea, in which there are no Communitarian investments.

Also, it is totally counterproductive when the EU –on one hand- is promoting the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), on the basis of Regulation No. 1005/2008 of 29 September 2008 laying down a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing, it –on the other hand- is parallel granting such unilateral concessions to countries that will undoubtedly serve as an escape route and operations-center for IUU fishing provided by Southeast Asian fleets.

To avoid this situation, the EU should inevitably demand that processed products made from tuna originating from third countries for the EU market should be proven to be truly and undoubtedly produced from raw materials which were not caught with illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing techniques.

Ultimately, INTERATÚN urgently requests:
1.    that the European Commission (EC), in its next Agriculture and Fisheries Council of July 13th,  does not approve  the Economic Partnership Agreement with the Pacific in order not to damage the tuna industry,  both of the EU, as well as of the located in the countries covered by the ACP and regimes GSP +;

2.    that the EC considers carefully and consults with the Communitarian tuna industry, before taking any decision, given the serious consequences that this agreement would have on the Communitarian tuna sector, for the tuna fleet and the tuna canning industry, and other countries with which the EU has preferential agreements. It is necessary for the EC to present an impressive report with such a radial measure that will affect the entire global tuna industry.
INTERATUN is the first trade organization formed and formally recognized by the Ministry of Environment, Rural and Marine Environment in the field of fisheries. This organization is composed of the four most representative associations of the Spanish tuna industry by the industry and markets and ANFACO FEICOPESCA, and by the fleet-ANABAC OPTUC and OPAGAC.