Pacific Islands Trade Agreement

PACER-Plus

The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations - Plus (PACER-Plus) agreement between Australia, New Zealand and 12 Pacific Island countries was finalised in Brisbane in April 2017. PACER-plus negotiations began in 2009 with 14 Pacific Island countries involved in the talks. The deal was signed on June 14, 2017, but the two  largest economies,  Papua New Guinea and Fiji , representing 80% of the combined GDP of Pacific Island countries, did not sign. Both have said the agreement threatens their infant industries and would not benefit their economies. 

PACER Plus was tabled in the Australian parliament in November 2017 and was  reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which reported  on   May 9, 2018. Community groups made submissions recommending against implementation, pending independent assessments of the economic, environmental , health and gender impacts of the deal in Pacific Island countries. See the AFTINET submission  here  and the Committee Report here.  The report admitted that he absence of Fiji and PNG greatly diminished its significance,  that the main benefits would flow to Australia and New Zealand and that rapid removal of tariffs and services deregulation could harm small and vulnerable Pacific Island economies.Despite these admissions, the report recommended that the implementing legislation be approved. See AFTINET analysis here..

Business journalist says JSCOT report a critique of PACER-Plus

17 May 2018: Business journalist Nic Maclellan has analysed the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCT) report into the PACER-Plus trade deal on Devpolicy blog. He writes, “although the committee recommends that Parliament should ratify PACER-Plus, the report is a telling critique of the treaty’. It concedes that ‘the absence of PNG and Fiji… significantly diminishes the utility of the agreement for Australian businesses’.

Pacific Island trade deal diminished without PNG and Fiji and could cause harm, says report

Media Release, May 9, 2014: “The Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Report on the PACER Plus trade deal between Australia New Zealand and nine Pacific Island countries admits that the absence of Papua New Guinea and Fiji ‘significantly diminishes’ the value of the deal,” AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today.

Pacific trade deal PACER-Plus is PACER-minus without PNG and Fiji

Media Release, November 29, 2017: “The PACER-plus trade deal with Pacific Islands tabled in the Senate today has not been signed by Papua New Guinea and Fiji, the two largest Pacific island economies, which together represent over 80% of GDP of the combined island economies, “ AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald said today. “Without the two largest Pacific Island economies, PACER-plus has failed as a regional agreement and should be called PACER-minus.”

PACER-Plus barely mentioned at Pacific Island Forum Meeting

September 10, 2017: Vanuatu signed PACER-plus at the Pacific island forum meeting of leaders in Apia. Samoa. PNG and Fiji , the two largest PI economics, have still not signed. The leaders statement from the forum, which deals with a wide range of issues like climate change, security  and fisheries, as well as trade issues, barely mentioned PACER plus. The agreement has still not been tabled in the Australian Parliament, but this could take place soon.

Pacific Island Seasonal Worker Program needs stronger union role

August 16, 2017: So far the Seasonal Worker Programs for Pacific Island and Timor-Leste workers in Australia have been kept separate from trade agreements like PACER-Plus. Trade agreements are rigid and hard to change, but a stand-alone agreement such as the Seasonal Worker Program for horticultural workers, can be adjusted. As Nic Maclellan argues in his Development Policy article, there is strong evidence that significant change is needed.

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