Dr Patricia Ranald, convener for AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network), in her recent interview for Pacific Beat, has explained why Papua New Guinea and Fiji refused to sign up the controversial PACER plus trade deal, and why this agreement is not good for all Pacific island nations, including Vanuatu.
“Our concern as a civil society organization is that Fiji and PNG, the two largest economies representing over 80% of the combined GDP of the Pacific Islands, have not signed, and the reason they’ve given for not signing, is that they don’t think it’s a good deal for them. And for other Pacific islands actually as well. It’s not really a regional deal, if it doesn’t have two largest economies in it,” she said.
“We are calling it PACER Minus, rather than PACER plus, because of this big hole. Fiji and PNG are saying that, for instance, the arrangement about tariff reductions in the agreement to them means that their industries, which they are trying to foster to create employment locally, will be very badly affected,” Patricia Ranald added.
“Agreement is mainly about getting access for Australia and New Zealand goods into Pacific island economies, and investments and services as well.
“If this deal is applied as it stands, it’s going to be easier for Australia and New Zealand to export to the Pacific islands that have signed up, and this relatively small amount of trade for Australia and NZ could do a lot of damage to the Pacific island countries participating in PACER plus,” expert concluded.
As we have reported, Prime Minister of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai has signed PACER Plus in September. During his press conference after signing Charlot Salwai also said the subject of visa free access in Australia and New Zealand for the holders of Vanuatu passports to be “on the table for discussions in coming months”.