9 Jun 2017

Vanuatu's PACER-Plus move of little surprise

7:40 pm on 9 June 2017
Vanuatu's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Vanuatu's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Photo: RNZI / Jamie Tahana

An analyst of Pacific issues says it is not a great surprise that Vanuatu has pulled out of next week's signing of the PACER Plus agreement.

Delegates from 14 Pacific nations were due to meet in Nuku'alofa on Wednesday to sign a free trade deal that has been under negotiation for eight years.

TNC Pacific Consulting's Tess Newton Cain said the government was seeking more information before it went any further with the deal.

She said there had always been significant opposition in Vanuatu over such matters as the impact on infant industries and the loss of tariffs.

But Ms Newton Cain said those issues, as well as the benefits to the island countries from PACER Plus, have been overstated.

"It is a very polarising issue," she said.

"There are strong views on both sides, but I think overall Vanuatu just wants to take a little bit more time to see whether this is a very good deal for them, bearing in mind that like Fiji and PNG they are already full signed up members of the MSG [Melanesian Spearhead Group] trade agreement and they may see that that is a more beneficial route for them than joining up with this other agreement."