Pacific island countries are hopeful of wrapping up a trade pact with the European Union by year’s end and one with Australia and New Zealand mid-next year.
Fourteen leaders discussed trade agreement negotiation progress and labour mobility on Tuesday in Port Moresby, ahead of the Pacific Island Forum leaders summit and retreat, which includes Australia and New Zealand, later this week.
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the Pacific island nations hoped to seal the EU trade deal at the UN climate change talks in Paris this December.
“On the sidelines of that meeting we look forward to meeting with the European Union with the view of finalising the final agreement,” he told reporters.
There were concerns negotiations had dragged on to long after about a decade and Pacific leaders were keen to get on with it, Mr O’Neill said.
Meanwhile negotiations for the Pacer Plus trade deal with Australia and NZ were going well and Mr O’Neill flagged June 2016 was the expected deadline.
The Pacific leaders hailed Australia’s recent increase to its seasonal workers program and hope NZ will also raise their quota.
Mr O’Neill said Tuesday’s meeting had backed many of the recommendations of a climate change declaration by six small island states released on Monday.
It had called for a global moratorium on new coal mining, polluter pays principles and the climate change temperature rise to be restricted to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
NZ Prime Minister John Key is due to arrive in Port Moresby on Tuesday evening and Prime Minister Tony Abbott will fly in on Wednesday.