by Marie Kauna – EMTV Online, Port Moresby
PACER Plus, or the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus negotiation is comprised of countries including Australia, Cooks Islands, Federates States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
Negotiations on the PACER Plus were first launched at the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum in 2009 and its conclusions are yet to be made come mid 2016.
While conclusions are still pending, Fiji and Papua New Guinea have raised concerns on the current form of PACER Plus with concerns on each country’s benefits on a larger perspective economically, socially and politically.
During the trade negotiation round in Fiji last year, Fiji’s Trade Minister, Faiyaz Koya, said the current form leaves a lot to be desired, adding that PACER Plus should be a living agreement without any difficulties during implementation.
Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Trade, Richard Maru, has raised the same concern.
Minister Maru opposed the current form of PACER Plus saying the negotiations will see little benefit for Papua New Guinea and that it will reduce employment opportunities, which will kill the country’s manufacturing sector.
While Fiji and Papua New Guinea have raised concerns on the current form, Chief Trade Advisor for Pacific island countries, Ediwni Kessie, says the PACER Plus free trade agreement can allow flexibility for member countries to use tariffs.
Despite this, Fiji has warned to pull out of the negotiations while Papua New Guinea’s government said it will not support the PACER Plus regional agreements on closer economic relations.