24 Aug 2016

Trade ministers petitioned to hold off on PACER-Plus

3:50 pm on 24 August 2016

A petition calling for a suspension of any decision on the proposed regional free trade agreement known as PACER-Plus has been presented to regional trade ministers.

Signed by 55 Pacific civil society organisations and over 200 individuals, the petition calls for no conclusion to be made on PACER-Plus until all the texts have been released and there has been an independent social impact assessment of the proposed deal.

A meeting of Pacific trade ministers in Christchurch in New Zealand on Friday is supposed to see a conclusion of negotiations on all the legal texts.

But a campaigner for the Pacific Network on Globalisation argued that the huge support for the petition challenged the purported mandate of the trade ministers from their own people and their parliaments for the conclusion of PACER-Plus.

Adam Wolfenden also cited Papua New Guinea's withdrawal earlier this month and Fiji's ongoing concerns about their domestic industries and their right to regulate.

He said the lack of interest from the biggest economy in the Pacific showed that this was not a successful agreement.

"Just because a lot of energy and resources have been put into these negotiations that is not a reason to wrap them up." he said.

"It should constantly be judged on what the content and what that content means to the Pacific both the benefits and the costs before any decision is taken."

The office of the chief trade advisor to the Pacific and the lead spokespeople for the Pacific Forum Island countries repeatedly brushed aside civil society concerns and said they were committed to wrapping up PACER-Plus by December this year.

Only eight of the 16 countries, including Australia and New Zealand who are involved in negotiations, need sign onto PACER-Plus for it to come into effect in 2017.

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