8 May 2015

'Significant progress' made at PACER-Plus talks

4:47 pm on 8 May 2015

The Chief Trade Advisor of the Pacific Island countries says significant progress was made on development assistance negotiations in this round of PACER-Plus talks.

Edwini Kessie

Edwini Kessie Photo: Supplied

Representatives from Australia, New Zealand and 14 Pacific nations have been in Port Vila in Vanuatu this week to discuss the regional free trade agreement.

Edwini Kessie says for the first time, New Zealand and Australia committed to provide funds to help Pacific Island countries address supply side constraints.

"Supply side constraints basically have prevented them from taking advantage of market access opportunities.

"Although they did not mention the figure, this is the first time the two countries have agreed that a specific sum of money would be set aside for Pacific Island countries."

Dr Kessie says more work needs to be done on labour mobility negotiations, with New Zealand and Australia saying they want to go through their domestic processes before making an agreement.

He says Pacific Island countries want the numbers of workers Australia and New Zealand take to increase, and for working schemes to be extended to new areas.

"For labour mobility, we managed to make modest progress. So that is one area where the negotiations, we didn't get the result that we expected but it's still work in progress.

"So we hope that at the next meeting we would be able to bridge the gaps in the negotiating positions of the parties. They [Australia and New Zealand] say they are going through their domestic processes and will let us know what can be done at the next meeting."

Dr Kessie says the next round of negotiations is likely to be held in Melbourne in early August.