Last week (22nd-26th October) Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Honorable Milner Tozaka led a Solomon Islands delegation to Brussels to attend a series of meetings including the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Senior Trade Officials Meeting, followed by the ACP Trade Ministers and joint ACP-EU Ministerial meeting.
In the margins of the ACP meetings, the delegation also held bilateral discussions on the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (iEPA) with the EU, which was attended by senior technical officials from Customs, Finance, Planning, Fisheries and Trade negotiated and concluded the market access offer with the EU officials. These meetings were important, towards ensuring that Solomon Islands continues to receive preferential treatment to its exports such as fisheries products and palm oil as Solomon Islands have been recommended to graduate from its LDC status.
The Honorable Minister Milner Tozaka, on the eve of 26th also met with the EU Deputy Director General. Some of the issues raised with the EU DDG are those related to SI LDC graduation, efficient and coordinated support in the implementation of the iEPA with due regard to being small and vulnerable to global financial and economic shocks and EDF 11.
In a statement during the Joint ACP-EU ministerial meeting, Hon. Milner Tozaka informed the meeting of Solomon Islands intent, ensuring that Solomon Island concludes the negotiations. He congratulated the EU and SI technical officials for showing much needed flexibility during the negotiation, which resulted in the final conclusion of the negotiations at the technical level. Further more, he insisted that whilst Solomon Island will accede to the agreement along side Fiji, PNG and Samoa, he reiterated the need for EU to continue to support the island countries to implement the agreement.
The next steps for SI in its accession to the iEPA is to work closely with EU trade officials in defending the technical conclusion in various platforms of the EU process such as the EU council and EU parliament.