28 Jun 2005

Vanuatu latest Pacific nation to ratify PICTA

10:14 am on 28 June 2005

Just four countries are yet to ratify the Pacific free trade deal, the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement, or PICTA, after Vanuatu gave it the green light.

Vanuatu's support for PICTA has been welcomed by the secretary general of the Forum, Greg Urwin, who says it will help to deepen the integration of the region's economies.

The countries now committed to PICTA besides Vanuatu are Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga.

Mr Urwin says although trade among island economies is currently small at around three to four per cent of total Pacific Island trade, it is expected to grow.

He also says that the small volume of trade also means the social impacts of integration will initially be small as the Pacific boosts its expertise in trading regionally and with the wider world.

Mr Urwin says the parties are working to refine their domestic regulatory requirements so PICTA can be implemented by January next year.

PICTA seeks to create a free trade area over a decade, initially starting with the Forum Island Countries, and providing for eventual expansion to other trade partners, such as Australia and New Zealand.