PACER-Plus will not deliver claimed benefits and could cause harm, say critics
November 3, 2020: The controversial PACER-Plus trade deal between Australia, New Zealand and initially 14 Pacific Island countries will come into force for only eight countries in December.
Fiji and PNG, representing over 80 per cent of Pacific Islands economic activity, did not sign it in 2017, saying it would mainly benefit Australia and New Zealand and would restrict local development. It has taken three years for Australia, New Zealand, and six smaller countries (Samoa, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Niue) to ratify it, and the agreement will come into force for those countries in December. Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are yet to ratify.
Pacific Island countries already have zero tariff access for their exports to Australia and New Zealand. PACER-Plus mainly reduces tariffs for ANZ exports to the Pacific Islands and reduces regulation of foreign investment.
Radio NZ yesterday reported that Australia and New Zealand have welcomed the deal and said it would strengthen regional Pacific ties.
But Adam Wolfenden from the Fiji-based Pacific Network on Globalisation commented that the deal benefited Australia and New Zealand more than the small island developing states
Wolfenden pointed out the absence from the agreement of two of the Pacific's largest economies, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, which he said spoke volumes about the quality of the deal.
"The language from Papua New Guinea and Fiji has been incredibly strong. PNG referred to it as being completely lopsided in Australia and New Zealand's advantage. Fiji has called some of the clauses a disaster for their industries. To their credit they have done their assessment and realised that to be in the PACER-Plus isn't in their interest," he said.