5 November 2018: Chatham House has published an article by research fellow Cleo Paskal which argues that PACER Plus mainly benefits Australia and New Zealand, and could damage their relationships in the region. She says that Fiji and PNG, representing 80% of Pacific Island Countries’ combined GDP, have not joined PACER Plus because the increased imports from Australia and New Zealand may threaten their developing industries. Nine smaller Pacific Islands have been pressured to sign a deal they are reluctant to implement.
Pacific Islands Trade Agreement
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’.
Media Release, May 9, 2018: “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.
April 9, 2018: On Sunday April 8, the Kingdom of Tonga’s Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva, threw more doubt over Tonga’s signature on the PACER-Plus free trade agreement when answering a direct question in a long media conference about the powers of the Cabinet.
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.”
October 5, 2017: Is PACER Plus agreement a good deal for all parties? And why didn't Fiji and PNG sign it?
AFTINET recently spoke to Dateline Pacific about the implications of the deal, and whether it is skewed towards Australia and New Zealand’s interests to the detriment of other parties.
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.
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.
June 14, 2017 Media Release: Over 30 groups and 449 individuals from the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand have called for a halt to the signing of the regional trade deal, known as PACER-Plus, until there has been proper time to assess its impacts and time to properly consult Pacific peoples. The petition is attached.