Despite Concerns Raised By Civil Society, Vanuatu Committed To PACER Plus

Minister says trade, development deal with Australia, New Zealand has 'vast potental'

By Jonas Cullwick

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, June 1, 2017) – Vanuatu remains committed to completing its process towards signing and ratifying and benefiting from the PACER Plus Agreement and considers that the Agreement is significant with vast potentials, said the Minister for Climate Change and Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ham Lini.

Mr. Lini made this position by the Vanuatu Government on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus in his address to the opening session of the one-day Seventh Non-State Actors (NSA) Dialogue Workshop on PACER Plus at the Warwick Le Lagon Hotel in Port Vila Wednesday.

He said the Vanuatu Government is of the view that PACER Plus has the potential to provide a platform for economic transformation and diversification of the economies of the Forum Island Countries (FICs).

He pointed to previous agreements that failed to address the needs of Pacific Island Countries such as the SPARTECA, “which does not translate or contribute to the increase of export and economic growth for many FICS.”

“We appreciate the challenges that are attributed to many factors, including restrictive rules of origin, limited productive capacity in many FICs, and difficulties in meeting the standards of Australia and New Zealand.

“I want to congratulate our trade officials who had negotiated very hard and ensuring that our needs and offers are captured in the agreement that will benefit our economy.

“The remaining issues have now been addressed within the PACER Plus framework, so that PACER Plus is meaningful and beneficial for us,” he told delegates.

Negotiations on PACER Plus commenced eight years ago, when Forum Leaders at their meeting in Cairns, Australia, agreed to launch the negotiations in 2009.

The launch of the negotiation had been preceded by extensive preparatory work undertaken “and today witnessed its conclusion with the NSA part of the process”.

“Trade agreements are negotiated between governments but widely acknowledged that the private sector has a unique role to play in trade policy formulation and implementation.

“It is the private sector that takes advantage of trade agreement negotiated by governments, therefore there is need for consultative mechanism between governments and private sector,” Lini added.

Mr. Shiu Rai, Director Policy – Economic Governance Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, speaking on behalf of the Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat said PACER Plus provided an avenue for strengthened regionalism through enhanced regional cooperation and integration that can contribute to the development of the Pacific Island Countries by stimulating more trade and investment in the region, thereby creating more business opportunities, stronger economic growth and more jobs.

“We need to be proactive in using PACER Plus to deal with hurdles and deliver positive results,” he said.

“It is also our duty to ensure that regionalism driven through PACER Plus is inclusive, and relevant to all people across the Pacific,” he added.

Mr. Raj added that the concerns and issues of all people, including Pacific citizens, civil society, the private sector, religious and

faith-based institutions, academics and scholars, must inform the identification and delivery of actions for regional integration.

“Regionalism is not only desirable, but essential to address common challenges, derive collective benefit from our shared resources, and leverage our collective, regional voice on the global stage as our economies increasingly become part of the global economy.

“For instance, the widening of the Forum Membership also represents opportunities that we should explore,” Mr. Raj said.

Pacer Plus is envisioned as a development-oriented Agreement with the objective of facilitating economic growth and sustainable development in the Parties, particularly the Forum Island Countries.

The development-oriented nature of the Agreement is reflected in many special and differential treatment provisions in favor of FIC.

This objective is also reflected in its comprehensive scope, covering various aspects of the FICs’ economy, including trade in goods, customs procedures, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary procedures, technical barriers to trade, trade in services, investment, temporary movement of natural persons, labor mobility, development and economic cooperation. A wider scope and coverage of trade will enable Parties to better harness opportunities and take advantage of this regional economic integration.

The FICs including Australia and New Zealand concluded the negotiations covering 15 chapters to the Agreement, including each party’s market access offers on goods and services, investment, movement of natural persons, Most Favoured Nation (MFN) exception and Senior Management Board of Directors.

This demonstrated the commitment of the parties through the Trade Ministers Meeting in Brisbane early this year.

The indication by Minister Lini of the government’s intention to sign PACER Plus comes after negotiations concluded in April this year.

Vanuatu Daily Post
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