PACER-PLUS: blessing or curse?
Pacific Island countries are being urged to walk away from PACER-PLUS by a new report from the Pacific Network on Globalisation, PANG.
Pacific Island countries are being urged to walk away from PACER-PLUS in a new report from the Pacific Network on Globalisation, PANG.
The report, which is based on leaked negotiating text for the free trade agreement, accuses Australia and New Zealand of aggressively advancing their strategic, political and economic interests at the Pacific's expense.
Koroi Hawkins has more
Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland wrote the reports' chapter on services and investment. She says the Pacific should take its cue from a growing number of countries which are withdrawing from such agreements.
PROFESSOR JANE KELSEY: If Australia and New Zealand really wished to advance a development Agenda then that would be at the very heart of the agreement. Instead their commercial and strategic objectives are what dominate and that just really perpetuates decades of self-interest in the region and it is time it stopped.
But the Chief Trade Advisor to Pacific Island Countries is rubbishing the new report saying its claims are unfounded and misleading. Edwini Kessie says Pacific island countries have full control of their involvement in PACER-PLUS and are able to adjust their commitments as they see fit.
EDWINI KESSIE: It is a trade and development agreement where Australia and New Zealand have gone beyond what most countries do in Trade Agreements. To undertaking commitments to assisting these countries to increase their trade and you know their living standards.
So far only Fiji and Papua New Guinea have yet to put forward their offers for the agreement with the PNG saying it will not be taking part in the agreement at all. Fiji however is expected to come to the table soon, a sentiment reinforced by New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key on Friday last week during his historic visit to Fiji - the first from a New Zealand leader since 2006.
JOHN KEY: Yeah, I think we are making progress there. There were some good discussions yesterday. One of the ambitions that we have always had as a government is to see development in the region and particularly in countries like Fiji, because then there are realistic jobs for people to go to.
But Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama in welcoming Key to the country made it clear that if Fiji came to the table over PACER Plus it would seek to do so on an equal footing.
FRANK BANIMARAMA: For all our closeness at a people-to-people level, Fiji seeks a new political relationship with New Zealand that is more equal. More rooted in mutual respect, more understanding of New Zealand's part of our own priorities whether it is on the trade front with the PACER-PLUS negotiations or our desire to reform our regional architecture to give Pacific Islanders a bigger voice.
Pacific Island Forum Leaders had wanted PACER-PLUS negotiations wrapped up this month, but that won't happen. The latest negotiations being held in Nadi in Fiji this week will conclude on Friday with the next round scheduled for August in Auckland.
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