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‘PACER’ TRADE TALKS WIND UP IN SOLOMON ISLANDS NGO urges caution in signing any agreements

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 19, 2010) – The first of an annual Non-State Actors (NSA) Dialogue on PACER [Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations] Plus concluded in Honiara last night with agreement on the need to more fully engage NSA’s in consultations on the proposed trade agreement both at the national and regional levels.

The Pacific Islands Association of Non-government Organizations (PIANGO) and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO) worked with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to facilitate the Dialogue, which brought together senior trade officials from Forum Member countries with a diverse group of national and regional NSAs.

Presenters at the meeting included the Public Institute of Public Policy, the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Growers Federation of Tonga, the Australia-Pacific Islands Business Council, the Samoa Umbrella of NGOs and Oxfam Australia.

[PIR editor’s note: In a related story in the Solomon Star, Collin Rugebatu of the non-governmental organization Development Services Exchange warned the Solomon Islands that it will lose out if it rushed into supporting PACER-Plus ( an agreement that provides a framework for future trade development between Pacific Forum countries, Australia and New Zealand) now rather than when the people are ready. Mr. Rugebatu stated that there are many development concerns needed to be addressed before PACER Plus. "I think we want this trade to come through but we want it to come when we are ready," he said.]

Other national and regional NSAs who attended the meeting included Union Aid Abroad APHEDA, the Development Services Exchange (DSE), Transparency Solomon Islands, Solomon Islands Women in Business Association, the Solomon Islands National Council of Women, Solomon Islands Tropical Production, Association of Solomon Islands Manufacturers, the Small and Medium Enterprise Council of Solomon Islands, Solomon Islands Non-State Actors Program and Oxfam Solomon Islands.

The Chief Trade Adviser on PACER Plus, Dr Christopher Noonan also attended the meeting.

The Dialogue, chaired by Kaliopate Tavola, discussed the shared goal of ensuring that PACER Plus increased economic development and prosperity in Pacific island countries.

The Dialogue noted the need for PACER Plus to respond to the different development needs of each country, and to ensure that any agreement was implemented in a cautious and staged manner that provided national governments with the policy space needed to nurture local industry and employment.

"Forum Members are genuinely committed to engaging with NSAs to ensure PACER Plus creates development benefits for Forum Island countries. This dialogue is the first in what we hope will be a deep and sustained consultative process that will continue throughout the negotiations. It is a historic opportunity to ensure the interests of Pacific island communities are well understood and form part of PACER Plus negotiations. It will end the ‘Dialogue of the Deaf’ and set the modalities and direction for future consultation at both the national and the regional level," said Mr Tavola.

Participants agreed that NSAs should engage deeply in consultations on PACER Plus, particularly at the national level.

The need for increased resourcing, information dissemination and capacity development were discussed.

The Dialogue agreed that PIANGO and PIPSO would continue to play a key role in PACER Plus discussions.

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