Forum Island Countries Spokesman Denounces Criticism Of PACER Plus Trade Plan

Pacific Network on Globalisation ‘does not speak for the FICs’

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, June 16, 2016) – Leading spokespersons for the Forum Island Countries on PACER Plus have come out slamming a PANG assessment they say is a “lopsided and inaccurate view” on PACER Plus, that was commissioned by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).

In a statement issued through the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) today, they refuted the PANG claims made earlier this week. “PANG does not speak for the FICs and we do not share their lopsided and inaccurate view on the PACER Plus negotiations or [their] conclusions.”

Joseph Ma’ahanua, Lead Spokesperson for the FICs on PACER Plus and his deputy spokespersons, Tessie Lambourne  and Kulu Bloomfield, stated that outdated negotiating texts were used by PANG to carry out the assessment and that it cannot be taken seriously because it was conducted without access to the Parties’ draft commitments on trade in goods, trade in services and investment.

PANG recently urged Pacific island countries to walk away from PACER Plus trade talks, warning it could lead to serious implications for Pacific island countries concering gender, health, food and national sovereignty, after it completed an assessment of the agreement based on leaked negotiating text.

In response the FICs spokes persons said opportunities were available to clarify the misconceptions about PACER Plus and that Non-State Actors (NSAs) were invited to attend the recent Sixth NSA Dialogue Workshop held between 10-11 June 2016 in Nadi, Fiji. However, they also claimed that PANG “refuses to participate and is spreading false information”, undermining the positions of the FICs in the negotiations.

“It is highly unfortunate and regrettable that PANG takes the view that the negotiators of the FICs are ignorant and are being railroaded by Australia and New Zealand into accepting their positions in the negotiations”

The FIC assured PANG and other NSAs they are in full control of the negotiations and are effectively advancing Pacific island interests with support from the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser.

Special treatment

Issues raised by PANG regarding gender, health, food and national sovereignty have been quashed by FIC with several special and differential treatment provisions in the PACER Plus agreement in favour of the FICs. These include conditions under the Trade in Goods section of FICs being able to change or withdraw tariff commitments by offering (as compensation) lower duties on agreed products of the affected countries; and accessing a transitional safeguard measure which would let FICs temporarily increase trariffs to deal with import surges if any threat arises that may cause or causes serious injury to domestic industries. FIC says it took into consideration products which generate alot of revenue for Pacific island governments, the need to protect Pacific island infant industries from competition and the need to safeguard the health of Pacific island citizens.

Under the Trade in Services and Investment of the agreement, each FIC is free to choose the sectors in which it wants to give commitments and also place limitations on the commitments assumed by them such as with foreign ownership of land where most FICs prefer foreigners only lease and not own land. 

FICs stated that because Pacific island countries are marginalized in world trade, they need foreign direct investment in key sectors of their economies to be able to play a greater role in the global economy and PACER Plus will help to achieve this goal.

Australia and New Zealand have also assisted FICs with seasonal work programmes with both countries increasing the labour cap and expanding the programme to other sectors. Both countries have committed to financing and providing technical assistance to FICs to implement PACER Plus as well as address infrastructure challenges and other challenges that impede FICs efforts to increase and diversify exports in order to play a bigger role in international trade.

FICs spokerspersons believe that PACER Plus is a trade and development agreement that puts the interests of the FICs at its core. 

Matangi Tonga Magazine
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