PACER-plus could be signed next month
23 March 2017: According to recent media reports, Australia and New Zealand’s PACER-plus deal with Pacific Island nations could be signed as early as April - without the two biggest island economies Fiji and PNG.
The fact that the two largest Pacific Island economies don’t want to sign on shows that the deal is heavily skewed towards the interests of Australia and New Zealand - despite early rhetoric that the agreement was as much about development as it was about reducing trade barriers.
Fiji is particularly concerned about their ability to protect their fledgling industries and says the deal is too one sided. PNG’s reason for withdrawing from the negations was that the deal wouldn’t benefit their economy.
These are concerns which should be shared by many of the smaller economies in the Pacific, which have less negotiating power than Fiji and PNG. These small island nations are still in the negotiations and are set to sign the deal, despite civil society concerns that Australia and New Zealand are pushing their own interests at the expense of the Pacific.
A recent social impact report recommended that Pacific Island governments should walk away from the talks so they can retain their legal right to regulate to protect their national development interests, which include the ownership and control of land, natural resources and the environment.