April 2, 2020: Australia’s policy to the Pacific Island nations has been erratic over the last decade. The focus from 2009 was to impose the PACER-Plus free trade agreement onto the region. Negotiations dragged through to 2017, but three years later it has still not been ratified by most Pacific Island Countries and is not in force. The COVID-19 pandemic underlines the need for a profound re-think of the relationship.
Pacific Islands Trade Agreement
March 23, 2020: The AFTINET submission to the government inquiry on trade relationships with the Pacific Islands recommends that the Australian government cease trying to promote Pacer Plus in its current form, which excludes countries with over 80% of Pacific Island economic output and is not an effective regional agreement. Instead the government should conduct a fundamental review of the terms of Pacer Plus based on listening to the real concerns of Pacific island countries about the impacts of climate change as well as imbalances in the trade relationship.
March 5, 2020: AFTINET Media Release - Four new Parliamentary inquiries show Australian trade policy failing in the Pacific
February 27, 2020: The Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are taking on disproportionate binding commitments in exchange for false promises of benefits from the regional free trade deal known as PACER-Plus according to new analysis released today from the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).
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.
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.