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Ali: Some Progress On Pacer Plus

Ali: Some Progress On Pacer Plus
Shaheen Ali
May 03
14:30 2018

 

Fiji has made “significant progress” in negotiations with Australia and New Zealand over the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus), says trade permanent secretary Shaheen Ali.

Mr Ali said although Fiji had managed to iron out a number of goods issues, it would maintain its position as a non-signatory until all grievances were addressed.

The deal was touted as a free trade agreement covering goods, services and investment.

Speaking to the Standing Committee on Economic Affairs yesterday, Mr Ali said talks with the two countries were still ongoing.

The deal became mired in controversy at its signing last year in Tonga when Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the two biggest economies in the South Pacific, decided not to sign.

Its signatories include: Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.

Reports also emerged this year that Tonga was pulling out of the deal, something Tongan Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva was quoted denying by the country’s media.

Diplomacy analysts say Pacific Island countries are concerned that the movement of goods provisioned in the deal would crush local manufacturing industries.

Fiji also desires greater labour mobility within Australia and New Zealand, but the issue has become a sensitive one.

Labour mobility means “the temporary employment of natural persons, (and) not residency,” Mr Ali said.

“People often see the two as one and that is when the issue becomes sensitive.”

Mr Ali said Fiji was seeking fair and legally-binding commitments from Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Ali also spoke to the committee about Fiji as a preferred destination for producing films, saying the 47 per cent film tax rebate made the country an attractive option.

In 2014, Mr Ali said, 52 productions were done in Fiji, generating economic activity of up to $32.5m.

Last year, that figure nearly doubled to 74 productions, with $350 million worth of economic activity.

Committee chair and Assistant Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment hailed the “spin-off effect” of a producing a movie in Fiji.

 

Savusavu Industrial Zone

Mr Ali said tenders for the zone, which is a Government initiative to encourage greater investment in the Northern Division, were being assessed.

The zone, according to the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism website, is modeled on the Kalabu Tax Free Zone in Nasinu.

The Zone is located on Balaga Bay, Savusavu and occupies 16 acres of acres of freehold land, according to the website.

Feedback: sheldon.chanel@fijisun.com.fj

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