19 Feb 2010

Pacific trade advisor signed to begin work at the end of March

3:59 pm on 19 February 2010

The man who is to serve as chief trade advisor for Pacific Island countries in their negotiations with New Zealand and Australia over the PACER Plus agreement will start work at the end of next month.

Dr Christopher Noonan has now signed his contract with the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat.

PACER Plus is a planned comprehensive free trade and economic development agreement for the region, and is seen as aa blueprint for future trade deals.

The island countries had sought the expertise of Dr Noonan to help them negotiate the terms with the Forum's metropolitan countries.

Dr Noonan, who is leaving his post as an associate professor of commercial law at the University of Auckland to take up his appointment as CTA, will also establish the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor in Port Vila.

Last month the Solomon Islands Foreign Minister, William Haomae, wrote a strongly-worded letter to the Forum Secretary General, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, criticising the delays in the completion of Dr Noonan's contract.

He was also critical of plans to make the CTA subordinate to the Forum's economic advisor.

A spokesperson for the Forum says it doesn't comment on private correspondence, but in a statement announcing Dr Noonan's appointment it says, to ensure the independence of the CTA, the Port Vila office will operate separately from the Forum Secretariat with its own Board of Governors.