Advocate: Islands ‘Held Hostage’ To PACER Plus Trade Pact

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Advocate: Islands ‘Held Hostage’ To PACER Plus Trade Pact PANG opposes negotiations, calls for release of draft agreement

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Aug. 5, 2015) – Civil society organisations say island nations are being held hostage to the PACER PLUS free trade agreements.

The criticism comes as the latest round of talks get underway in Samoa with a focus on labour mobility, development assistance and trade in goods.

The Pacific Network on Globalisation, or PANG, says the so-called "development agreement" is forcing Pacific countries to shoulder the burden of legal commitments while Australia and New Zealand offer voluntary commitments.

A campaigner, Adam Wolfenden, says NGOs oppose an agreement they see as unnecessary and out of touch with the economic context of many Pacific nations.

"The politics of PACER PLUS is that it is very hard for these island nations to not be at the table, you know to walk away from something that there is obviously a mandate but also when you look at the two biggest aid donors sitting across the table from them you know there are repercussions."

Adam Wolfenden says he wants a PACER PLUS negotiations to be suspended and all negotiation texts to be released.

"So we are calling for an immediate suspension of negotiations, release of the text and the conducting of you know human rights impact assessments on those texts. So we have a sense of what this is fully going to mean. Not just the economic rhetoric that is being pushed by governments and the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor."

PANG are arguing that an obvious example of the inequalities or discrepancies in the agreement is the insistence by Australia and New Zealand to have labour mobility as a separate, parallel arrangement to PACER PLUS.

This is seen as giving them the flexibility to change labour mobility conditions in the future as they see fit but at the same time leaving Pacific countries legally bound to their parts of the trade deal.

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