Vila Times

Vanuatu businesses criticise government for PACER Plus, consider moving to Samoa and Fiji

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The private sector in Vanuatu has expressed its disappointment with the Government of Vanuatu decision to sign the PACER Plus trade deal despite heavy opposition from the local businesses.

According to the Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) statement, the private sector was astounded to learn the Council of Ministers had reversed its position on PACER Plus without any further consideration in spite of the overwhelming position of these businesses which will be affected by this decision.

“The VCCI understands that PACER PLUS will be good for Australia and New Zealand but the private sector is dismayed that the Council of Ministers has decided not to work in the best interests of Vanuatu,” VCCI statement says, asking what made the Council of Ministers to change its initial decision not to sign the PACER Plus agreement.

VCCI also noted that a number of companies are now considering relocating their businesses to Samoa or Fiji, because the “private sector development is not a priority for the Vanuatu Government.”

“Businesses in Samoa and Fiji have reported to Vanuatu businesses that their respective Governments are very much switched on to the private sector development, interests and needs. They are ready to back up any sectors investment with strong and committed support, to help them to establish a business in their country,” VCCI reports, adding that current government created reputation of a difficult country to start and maintain a business for Vanuatu.

The potential introduction of the income tax may remove one of the last reasons investors choosing Vanuatu over other Pacific Island countries.

On Thursday, September 7, Vanuatu has signed the PACER Plus trade deal. According to the Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai, PACER Plus would work only if Vanuatu invests in the right infrastructure and focuses on sustainable industry development.

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay has welcomed Vanuatu to the Pacific trade and development agreement, and said this is another important step in developing the economies of Pacific countries.