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“Pacific Free Trade Deal Will Only Benefit The USA”

Palusalue: Samoa lacks real commodities to trade
In the absence of any real substantial export commodities, Samoa would be better to promote the unique Samoan culture to Americans.

The proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pacific countries and the United States of America will only advantage the Americans.

That’s the warning from the leader of the Opposition Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II.

Leader of the Opposition Party, Palusalue Fa’apo II

At the recent Forum Trade Ministers’ Meeting held here in Apia, ministers’ instructed the Forum Secretariat to make discussions with the U.S. a priority for Pacific leaders.

Economic Governance at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Director Shiu Raj, Director of, says the Pacific region can't afford to stay isolated from the global trade environment.

“There are other regions which have been able to successfully conclude quite an interesting trading arrangement with the United States of America,” Mr. Raj said.

“As a consequence, they have been able to get their products into the respective markets, including deals which actually allows for investments.”

While the Pacific has found it hard to grow its trade and investment links with the U.S., the trade ministers are keen for that to change.

They told the forum secretariat to secure funding for a study to look at what issues should be tackled in the new agreement.

“In any trade agreement, it is very important for us to structure that agreement in such a way so that the private sector is able to capitalize on the opportunities for such as deal,” Mr. Raj said.

“For the Pacific Island countries to be able to export to the USA, they need to overcome quite a few hurdles and many of these are actually non-trade barriers.”

But Palusalue is pessimistic.

“Free trade with what?” he asked. “Does Samoa have anything to trade with the Americans? We can only import from the U.S., what does Samoa trade?”

He said the only way the proposed agreement would work was if Samoa could put up commodities to export to the USA.

“But I think now if we get this Free Trade (Agreement) it will only advantage the U.S. but Samoa because we don’t have any exports,” he said. “I believe we don’t need it.”

With more than half of the world's tuna caught in the Pacific region, the United States is keen to get access to the Pacific region for its fishing rights.

Dr. Transform Aqorau, Director of the office representing the 8 nations with the richest tuna resource, says it was the difficult negotiations with the U.S. for an extension of its tuna treaty that led to plans for a broader trade and development agreement.

“When we started off with the negotiations, because the U.S. was given preferential access to 16 exclusive economic zones, we wanted them to reciprocate by also giving preferential access to our tuna products into their market,” he said.

Dr. Aqorau says he believes the new deal has the potential to increase the investment in fishing.

“If we can develop a trade and development agreement with the United States, I am sure it is going to add value to investment and make investments worthwhile,” he said.

However, this notion that the FTA has the potential to increase the fishing trade may not wash, especially if we look at the status of the current talks between the Pacific ACP States (PACPS) and the EU on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Earlier this month saw the conclusion of another round of trade negotiations between the parties, resulting in the EU asking for period of reflection to consult their stakeholders.

Amidst serious divergences over a number of contentious issues, including the EU’s request to introduce significant changes in PACPS’ national laws dealing with the management of fisheries resources, the EU could not agree to the PACPS’ request to continue negotiations in September 2013.

The EU expressed strong disappointment towards the PACPS’ position that any issue concerning the management of fisheries resources should only be dealt with in the competent forums such as the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

The EU’s request to use the EPA to address PACPS’ fisheries management appears motivated by the fact that previous attempts to debate the issue in the WCPFC did not produce any positive results for the EU.

In regards to the FTA with the USA Pacific Island leaders will hold talks with United States officials during their annual summit in Majuro early September.