Posts tagged ACP

Fiji PM Bainimarama’s Speech at the 13th ACP Sugar Conference

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

On behalf of the Fijian Government and people, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to Fiji for the 13th ACP Ministerial Conference.

It is a great pleasure for Fiji to once again host the ACP Ministerial Conference on Sugar, having last done so six years ago, in 2007.  In June this year, we also had the privilege of hosting – and also chairing – the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council, the global industry body.

Fiji is proud to contribute to solutions we seek to the many challenges facing an industry on, which the livelihoods of so many millions of our people depend.

It is their interests that must always be at the forefront of our deliberations, as we seek to secure their livelihoods, through a sustained industry, which includes secure markets. We need to expand economic opportunities, boost our national economies and lift the overall living standards of all our peoples. That is why it is critical that as ACP leaders we must maintain solidarity and a focus on the future.

For many of us, sugar cane is not just some incidental crop that can be easily replaced. It is a primary agricultural export, at the very core of our economies and a principal source income for huge segments of our populations – in Fiji’s case, 200-thousand people or more 20 per cent of all Fijians. In some ACP countries, sugar exports account for more than one quarter of GDP and 85 per cent of total agricultural exports.

Indeed, the Fijian economy has been built on the sugar cane industry. Before the growth of tourism and other sectors, we depended almost entirely on sugar for close to 100 years. Today our economy is more diversified and sophisticated, but sugar cane is still a significant industry. So for Fiji and many other ACP countries, a healthy market for our sugar spells a healthy economy and higher living standards, while a poor market spells the opposite.

As you all know, the global market environment for sugar has not been healthy. It has been characterised by higher production and lower prices, has severely tested us in recent years. Now, more than ever, we need a united front and at the same time understanding and a fair deal by our European partners.

In this area, as you all know, we have a considerable way to go. As we make the transition from what many viewed as the sacrosanct Sugar Protocol arrangement to the new Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), it is critical that adequate support and time is provided to ACP sugar producing countries. For Fiji this support has been sorely lacking. Disbursement of the promised Accompanying Measures Support Program (AMSP) has been politicised and Fiji has not received the fair share owed to it.

The negotiations of EPAs have been long and drawn out due to the inclusion of many non-trade issues. The unilaterally imposed changes to the European Commission market access regulation 1528 of 2007 has created further uncertainty as it threatens to remove access despite the fact that negotiations on full EPAs are incomplete. This premature end of market access could prove to be disastrous for the livelihoods and lives of the citizens in many ACP countries. Consequently it would also be detrimental to ACP – EU relations.

Indeed as we speak the Pacific countries represented by their Trade Ministers are currently in Brussels and will meet the EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht to negotiate in good faith.

We all hope that these challenges can be resolved in an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and goodwill – with the understanding that any decision will have real impact on the lives on men and women and children in our respective countries.

I think I speak for everyone in this room when I say that we do not want handouts. What we want is for our people to benefit from their own sweat and toil by gaining fair and reasonable access to global markets and fair prices. This has long been the paradigm of our relationship with the European Union and has made an immense contribution towards sustainable economic development and the eradication of poverty.

The EU has remained a key market for our sugar exports despite some major challenges that our small and vulnerable economies have had to grapple with in recent years.  The sugar cane industries in many ACP countries embarked on major reform and restructuring programmes to ensure their long-term sustainability.  These reforms are still being implemented, and we now need certainty and consistency in our trade relationship with the EU, more than ever to allow these reforms to fully take root and flourish. The last thing we need now is more uncertainty.

Mr. Chairman,

Even if we manage to successfully negotiate mutually beneficial EPAs by the current unilaterally imposed deadline of 2014, we risk further unprecedented harm with the abolishment of the EU sugar production quotas in 2017.  As the ACP Group, we had in Mozambique in 2011, made the request in accordance with the Cotonou Partnership Agreement that quotas be maintained until at least 2020. This would provide the long-term stability and predictability necessary for continued investment in the sugar cane industries and enough time for any possible and successful restructuring and/or transition.

It is now apparent that our concerns and expectations were not fully taken into account and that our call for greater coherence in trade, agriculture and development policies was ignored by EU decision- makers.

This Conference presents an excellent opportunity to take stock of all these developments and assess the likely implications of the inconsistent support provided through the EU’s AMSP, the threat of end of market access by 2014 and the end of the EU quotas for ACP suppliers by 2017.  Based on the technical input and our deliberations in the proceedings, we can then develop appropriate strategies to chart the way forward.

We also need to examine the long-term viability and sustainability of our sugar cane industries, with the intention of shifting the focus from merely producing sugar to developing new uses for our cane crops. We badly need to diversify and add value in order to remain competitive and meet the many challenges facing us – including price volatility and changing market conditions.

We must look at all avenues to increase the revenue base of the sugar cane industry.  We must give serious consideration to cogeneration, bio-fuels and other viable uses in addition to the traditional by-products.

The ACP Sugar Research and Innovation Programme has made significant progress in this area and could assist our industries to benefit greatly from this research work.

New varieties of cane are being developed and in May, Fiji was honoured to host an international workshop on the nobilisation of erianthus, a sugar hybrid.

For our part, we are sparing no effort to revitalise the Fijian sugar cane industry, and I’m happy to say that we’ve begun to see encouraging signs that those reforms are working, despite the lack of support from our partners the EU.

Land that had fallen fallow is being replanted, more long-term leases are being renewed, confidence is growing, stability is returning and a revitalised industry is beginning to take root.

At the beginning of this season’s crop, I was able to announce a record cane payment to our farmers, as well as a high price secured for next year’s crop.

With the 2013 season well underway, I can confidently say that we are on the right path. It’s no longer just about keeping the industry afloat. We are more ambitious than that. In fact, our long-term goal is to increase production and diversify our industry – adding value to our crop – in order to limit our exposure to the uncertainty of price fluctuations for raw sugar.

Mr. Chairman,

We have huge challenges ahead.  Undoubtedly, at the end of the next few days, we will have defined and taken a firm decision on future strategies and actions for the short and long term to defend our position.  Needless to say, the ACP must maintain its unity and solidarity in order to successfully chart the way forward.

I look forward to the deliberations and assure you all of our support during your stay in Fiji.

You are here at an important time in our history. This has certainly been an eventful year.  In January, we assumed the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 Plus China for 2013 and are honoured to progress South-South cooperation agenda on a mutual development platform.

Domestically, on September 6th, His Excellency, the President of Fiji, gave his assent to a new Constitution that will take us to the first genuinely democratic parliamentary election in our history next year.

The 2013 Constitution embodies everything that my Government envisaged when it set out six and a half years ago to put Fiji on a path towards true democracy and tackle the corruption that was impeding our development.

For the very first time socio-economic rights, such as right to  economic participation, right to health and education, right to a just minimum wage, transport, housing, food and water and social security,  are guaranteed by the supreme law of the land.

It is the Constitution that will finally put us in the ranks of the world’s most liberal democracies. And it will provide a sound basis for lasting political stability and a platform on which to build a stronger and more resilient economy.

Ladies and Gentlemen, once again, welcome to Fiji. It’s a great pleasure to have you here and I urge you all to take time out to enjoy our beautiful country and the hospitality of the Fijian people.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank You.

Fiji PM Updates MSG Leaders on Elections Progress

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has updated Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders on Fiji’s progress towards parliamentary democracy during a retreat as part of the 19th MSG Leaders Summit yesterday.

He said the Fijian people have been given the opportunity for a transparent and open dialogue process for the formulation of a new constitution in readiness for the 2014 national elections.

“The new constitution will amplify the voices and earnest wishes of the Fijian people and also provide a distillation of Fiji’s reform agenda that will lay the foundations for a progressive and sustainable Fiji,” PM Bainimarama said.

He said Fiji is currently at a crucial juncture in its 42 year history as an independent nation.

“We, as a nation, are enduring the most critical phase of our journey towards sustainable democracy,” PM Bainimarama added.

PM Bainimarama highlighted that a number of international and regional organisations including the UN, the Commonwealth, ACP and the Pacific Islands Forum, have recently carried out their own assessment of Fiji’s progress towards the 2014 Elections.

“These visits have taken note of the satisfactory progress Fiji is making and have also spotlighted areas where assistance can be rendered to ensure that the roadmap towards elections is effectively realized,” PM Bainimarama said.

Regarding the registration of political parties, the head of Government said the Political Parties Decree 2013 specified a modern and transparent process for registration and conduct of political parties.

“The Decree has also for the first time in Fiji introduced accountability and transparency with respect to the funding and accounts of political parties,” PM Bainimarama said.

FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER BAINIMARAMA STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF ACP & EU RELATIONS

FIJIAN PRIME MINISTER STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF ACP & EU RELATIONS

 

The African Caribbean and Pacific countries’ relationship with the European Union remains one of the highest priorities for this week’s 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council.
Chair of the ISO and Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama while welcoming sugar experts, industry leaders and various international government leaders said that as almost all of the ACP’s sugar exports are to the EU, the ACP – EU relationship is an issue of extreme urgency.

“Of great importance for all ACP sugar-exporting countries is the EU’s review of its Common Agricultural Policy, which includes the Common Market Organisation for Sugar,” PM Bainimarama said.

“The ACP sugar-exporting countries, including Fiji, are seeking a five-year extension of the EU-ACP quota system from 2015 to 2020.”

PM Bainimarama also pointed out that these additional five years will give ACP countries added security as they continue to restructure, modernise and diversify their sugar cane industries to meet today’s challenges and demands.

“For the Pacific ACP region, the issue of highest priority is the negotiation of a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, which in terms of sugar, would allow for continued duty-free access to their marketplace,” PM Bainimarama said.

“The alternative is the EU’s interim EPA, which we regard as highly problematic. The EU has announced that Pacific countries that do not ratify this interim EPA by 2014 will lose duty-free access, including for sugar.”

“A comprehensive EPA is the goal, and the EU should not move the goalpost at this late a stage,” PM Bainimarama said.

“An EPA that addresses the contentious issues and aspires to the region’s development goals is the only answer.”

The Fijian Prime Minster has called on the EU to enter these negotiations with the Pacific with a sense of urgency that matches our own.

PM Bainimarama – Speech at the Opening of the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council

On behalf of my Government and the Fijian people, it’s my pleasure to welcome you to Fiji for the 43rd Session of the International Sugar Council.

This is a proud moment for our country. Fiji is deeply honoured to host such a wide range of experts, industry leaders and government officials from around the world to discuss the future of the sugar cane industry.

When I accepted the chairmanship of the ISC in London last year, I made a pledge that Fiji would do everything possible to advance the cause of this global industry and the millions of ordinary people the world over who depend on it for their livelihoods.

They look to us to keep the industry sustainable and prosperous at a time when instability and uncertainty are commonplace. World sugar prices remain volatile, and shifts in production in a number of large sugar-producing nations have drastically altered the marketplace.

Currently, global production is higher than it has been for a long time, up 3.2% from last season, outstripping demand. This means that the price of sugar is down, and global stocks are forecast to increase as excess sugar is held over to next year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Although circumstances differ from country to country, we are faced with many of the same issues, primarily reliable access to markets – which is necessary to instil a degree of certainty into the industry that will help attract investment and drive reforms.

In the case of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) countries represented here, our highest priority relates to our relationship with the European Union (EU).

As almost all of the ACP’s sugar exports are to the EU, this is an issue of extreme urgency.

Of great importance for all ACP sugar-exporting countries is the EU’s review of its Common Agricultural Policy, which includes the Common Market Organisation for Sugar.

The ACP sugar-exporting countries, including Fiji, are seeking a five-year extension of the EU-ACP quota system from 2015 to 2020. These additional five years will give ACP countries added security as they continue to restructure, modernise and diversify their sugar cane industries to meet today’s challenges and demands.

For the Pacific ACP region, the issue of highest priority is the negotiation of a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, which in terms of sugar, would allow for continued duty-free access to their marketplace.

The alternative is the EU’s interim EPA, which we regard as highly problematic. The EU has announced that Pacific countries that do not ratify this interim EPA by 2014 will lose duty-free access, including for sugar. Unfortunately, there are a number of contentious issues contained in the interim EPA that are unacceptable to us.

The interim EPA – as its name suggests – was never intended to be a permanent solution. A comprehensive EPA is the goal, and the EU should not move the goalpost at this late a stage.

An EPA that addresses the contentious issues and aspires to the region’s development goals is the only answer.

We call on the EU to enter these negotiations with the Pacific with a sense of urgency that matches our own.

The Council will be updated on all of the latest developments during our deliberations this week.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For many of the countries represented here, sugar cane is not just some incidental crop that can be easily replaced. It is a primary agricultural export, at the very core of our economies and the lifeblood of huge segments of our populations.

In some ACP countries, sugar exports account for more than one quarter of GDP and 85 per cent of total agricultural exports.

In Fiji, our economy has been built on the sugar cane industry. Before the growth of tourism and other sectors, the sugar cane industry was almost the sole contributor to the prosperity of our country for close to 100 years.

Even though tourism has now become the leading foreign exchange earner, sugar remains a major economic driver, providing livelihoods – either directly or indirectly – for around 200,000 Fijians – more than 20% of our population.

Therefore, my Government’s commitment to this industry is absolute and unwavering – to make sugar viable and prosperous again – to reverse the decline in production experienced in Fiji over the last couple of decades.

One of the truest indicators of the health of the industry is the faith ordinary sugar cane farmers have that it can provide them and their families with a decent living. When farmers leave the sugar fields, it means that faith has been broken. It means they no longer believe that the sugar cane industry that once supported their families can continue to do so.

This was an all too common state of affairs six years ago when my Government took office. From day one, it was clear that our most important task would be to restore faith in the industry. To let all stakeholders know that sugar in Fiji can once again prosper. And it will.

For Fijians, uncertainty was caused by a number of factors.

Cane quality, cane transport, general infrastructure, supply to our mills and the performance of those mills are all issues.

We also face an issue that is uniquely challenging in Fiji – the renewal of long-term land leases for sugar cane farming. These lease renewals – which were only given for thirty years – limited the ability for farmers to properly commercialise these holdings. Not only that, land tenure was also highly politicised, fuelling insecurity and uncertainty for both landlords and farmers.

At the top levels, for too long the industry was characterised by neglect, mismanagement, lack of financial and corporate discipline and corruption. We also had too many politicians interfering in the industry, using it as a means for personal political advantage – a way to win easy votes. The problem was that it was all talk and no action.

In fact, it was a betrayal of ordinary farmers, who were given false promises rather than constructive solutions and meaningful reforms. Is it really any wonder that many of them lost faith in the industry?

Over the past few years, my Government has started to right these wrongs with a comprehensive series of reforms.

We are sparing no effort to revitalise Fiji’s sugar industry and, recently, I’m happy to say that we’ve begun to see encouraging signs that those reforms are working.

Land that had fallen fallow is being replanted, more long-term leases are being renewed, confidence is growing, stability is returning and a revitalised industry is beginning to take root.

Two weeks ago, I was able to announce a record cane payment to our farmers, as well as a high price secured for next year’s crop.

As I stand here today, I can confidently say that we are on the right path. It’s no longer just about keeping the industry afloat. We are more ambitious than that. In fact, our long-term goal is to increase production and diversify our industry – adding value to our crop – in order to limit our exposure to the uncertainty of price fluctuations for raw sugar.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

International meetings such as this allow us to share our experiences, transfer knowledge and advice, and develop new networks. We have the opportunity to discuss trends and forecasts, and we will hopefully get a clearer idea – collectively – of what the coming years have in store.

There is a lot of ground to cover and I look forward to your active participation and some lively discussion.

I would like to thank the Executive Director, Dr. Peter Baron, and his team, for their hard work in preparing for our deliberations.

Before I invite Dr. Baron to give us an overview of developments on world sugar and an outline of our activities, I would also like to again welcome you to Fiji and say how proud we are to be chairing the International Sugar Council this year.

You are here at a critical time in our history – the development of a new Constitution and the introduction of genuine parliamentary democracy for the first time next year.

We urge you to take time out to enjoy our beautiful country and its unique culture. We have also put together a program, which gives you a taste of Fiji.

Thank you for your attendance and I now invite the Executive Director to address you.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.