6 Aug 2009

Progress on Pacific trade talks

9:53 pm on 6 August 2009

Pacific leaders have agreed to progress regional free trade talks, despite initial concerns from some smaller island nations.

Some leaders said earlier in the week that they wanted more time to fully consider the implications.

The Pacific Island Leaders Summit has just finished in Cairns, where the leaders also issued a call to action on climate change to leaders of the global community.

There was also discussion about whether Fiji should be included in negotiations, which are expected to take at least a couple of years. Leaders have decided that Fiji will not be actively involved in the talks, but Prime Minister John Key says Fiji will be kept informed of progress through forum officials.

New Zealand will provide $1.95 million to set up an office to help countries prepare for and participate in the free trade negotiations.

Mentor scheme unveiled

John Key also used the summit to announce that the Government is to set up a mentoring programme to help budding businesses in the Pacific.

Mr Key says the programme will help small and medium-sized businesses to identify training needs, create opportunities for joint ventures and increase exports to New Zealand.

He says the specific cost has not been determined, but will run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, rather than millions.

Mr Key says some of the funding will come from the existing NZAID budget, but some new money will be needed.