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Koya:Fiji Won’t Commit If PACER Plus Talks Carry On As They Have Been

We don’t agree to the SPARTECA provisions to be replaced for those party to the new agreement   Fiji will not be committing to the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic
08 Dec 2015 11:03
Koya:Fiji Won’t Commit If PACER Plus Talks Carry On As They Have Been
The Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya while addressing his speech at the Pacific Agreement On Closure Economic Relations (PACER) PLUS 13TH Intersession Meeting at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi yesterday. Photo: LUKE NACEI

We don’t agree to the SPARTECA provisions to be replaced for those party to the new agreement

 

Fiji will not be committing to the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus if negotiations continue the way they are.

Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, told delegates of the PACER Plus 13th Intersessional meeting at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi yesterday.

The regional free trade agreement between the Pacific Islands countries and Australia and New Zealand has reached a critical stage of negotiations.

It aims to enhance trade and development of the Pacific and bring economic benefits.

Mr Koya stressed: “Our Governments have unanimously stated that the PACER Plus is NOT a traditional agreement, however, PACER Plus thus far has not been treated as such.

“It has also been said that the PACER Plus is a development agreement but this far, these are just mere words.”

Mr Koya said a Development Agreement essentially means securing long-term improved market access, preserving policy space, especially the right to regulate for development.

Also creating employment, uplifting the livelihoods of all Pacific Islanders and achieving sustainable development.

But, he said the agreement on the table does not achieve this.

“Today, we have a PACER Plus that does not provide binding commitments in Labour mobility or Development Cooperation.

“Furthermore, the Pacific parties are being pushed to give away their policy space, especially the right to regulate. The chapters on Investment and Service and General Exceptions, for example, seek to constrain our policy space to the extent that we no longer are in control of our development.”

Mr Koya said if we are to continue on this path, then: “We need to reconsider the structure of PACER Plus.

“Essentially we need to have opt-out provisions for parties in relation to Chapters on Investment and Services, otherwise we are wasting our time and resources in these negotiations.”

Mr Koya said Fiji does not consider the PACER Plus Agreement to be motivated by merely markets opened through elimination of tariffs or the removal of regulations on services and investment sectors.

He said Fiji believes the other Pacific Islands countries are also thinking the same.

“It is for this reason Fiji has emphasised the right to regulate in the negotiations and it is our hope that the final outcome we would have it as an operative article,” he said.

 

Importance

Mr Koya said: “PACER Plus was not mandated to be negotiated solely to an economic calculus to benefit the more competitive players.

“Rather, it is a means to deepen regional integration, create opportunities for growth, create a strong regional economic bloc and ultimately lead to meaningful socio-economic development of our respective countries.

“These ideals will not be achieved if the PACER Plus seeks to tie our hands.

“We would like this agreement to be a living agreement that will stand the test of time without any country having difficulties implementing it.”

Mr Koya said it was in our best interest to ensure that current negotiations result in a long term, predictable and sustainable foundation.

A foundation which leads to increased exports, job creation, poverty alleviation and private sector growth amongst Pacific Island countries, he said.

“Development should be at the core of PACER Plus,” he said.

“The final outcome should reflect this by taking into account the different levels of development between Australia and New Zealand on one hand and the Pacific Island countries on the other and also within the region.”

 

The other debate

Meanwhile, Mr Koya also highlighted that Fiji does not agree to the provisions of PACER Plus regarding the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA).

He said the provisions say PACER Plus will replace SPARTECA for those who are parties to the PACER Plus.

“However, it must be understood that SPARTECA is a separate treaty that was given to the Pacific under different circumstances,” Mr Koya stated.

“Hence, the SPARTECA must remain to exist and our private sector and exports could choose under, which framework they wish to conduct their business.”

Edited by: RACHNA LAL

Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj

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