21 May 2011

Australian NGOs want no conditions attached to office of trade adviser

9:45 am on 21 May 2011

Australian NGOs say Australia mustn't compromise the ability of Pacific island countries to determine the role and mandate of the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser.

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network and the aid watchdog, Aid/watch, say Canberra must support the office and ensure funding with no strings attached.

The office is seen as critical to help Pacific Island countries negotiate with Australia and New Zealand for the regional free trade deal known as PACER-Plus.

Aidwatch's Gary Lee says Australia wants to make its funding of the office contingent on it working only on PACER-Plus, when island countries want it free to work on other trade negotiations.

The Fair Trade Network's Harvey Purse says Australia should make clear there'll be no conditions attached to the funding limiting the activities of the office.

He says it's important the island nations receive full and complete advice especially given they are also negotiating other treaties such as the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.