Pacific trade deal weakened by Fiji, PNG, Vanuatu withdrawal: AFTINET

Vanuatu’s decision to join Fiji and Papua New Guinea to boycott the signing tomorrow of the PACER-Plus trade deal between Australia, New Zealand and now only 11 Pacific island countries shows there are serious weaknesses in the agreement.

Dr Patricia Ranald, Convener of the Australian Fair Trade in Investment Network (AFTINET), said today that this is because the three largest Pacific island economies are saying there are no benefits for them.

Dr Ranald said that the text was released only two weeks ago. Pacific island, Australian and NZ community groups are calling for an independent analysis and time for proper public and parliamentary consultation about the deal.

“There has been no independent analysis done about how PACER-Plus will impact on the daily lives of Pacific Islander people and their environment, in each country,” Dr Ranald said.

Dr Ranald said the main purpose of PACER-Plus is to reduce tariffs on Pacific Island imports from Australia and New Zealand and to reduce the ability of governments to regulate foreign investment in services and other sectors.

“Tariff reductions would lead to significant revenue losses for smaller Pacific Island countries, which could impact on the ability of these governments to provide essential services to their populations.

“We are concerned that the agreement could threaten livelihoods, local industries and jobs.

“The deal also reduces the right for governments to regulate in the public interest and this could impact on efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change on vulnerable islands.

“Trade-in-services rules could also create pressure for privatisation and reduce the ability of governments to regulate to provide equitable access to essential services for vulnerable populations.

“Pacific island countries need sufficient time to establish whether or not the proposed agreement is in their interests before signing.

“Australian and New Zealand governments should not be pressuring vulnerable economies to rush into a deal which does not benefit them," she said.