Pacific Islands burdened by unfair PACER-Plus Trade Deal say Pacific community groups

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).

The release of the analysis and accompanying briefs examines the technicalities and promises of the two Arrangements included in PACER-Plus – The Arrangement on Labour Mobility and the Development and Economic Cooperation Arrangement.

Adam Wolfenden, PANG's Trade Justice Campaigner explained that PACER-Plus and these Arrangements offer little actual benefit for the Pacific. Australian and New Zealand development assistance money has been diverted to ensure implementation of the trade deal and there is an annual meeting about labour mobility with no binding commitments. But Pacific countries had to make binding commitments to reduce tariffs and regulation of investment. He noted that the deal was so bad that an Australian Parliamentary Committee recommended that some development assistance go towards monitoring the anticipated negative impacts of the deal on government revenue, health and gender equality.

Mr Wolfenden said that more communication on labour mobility was welcome but the lack of mandated union voices at the annual meeting is a concern given the histories of worker exploitation in seasonal labour schemes. The study shows that employer obligations to assist with travel costs and other benefits have actually been reduced in the two years since PACER-Plus was finalised.

Of fourteen Pacific Island Countries, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, which produce over 80% of Pacific Island output, did not sign the deal, and only Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Kiribati have ratified it. The deal requires eight countries to ratify before it can be implemented.