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EDITORIAL: The problem In PACER Plus

The term PACER Plus keeps popping up time and again when meetings are held on this.   But while there are reports out there, many do not exactly understand what
09 Dec 2015 10:30
EDITORIAL: The problem In PACER Plus

The term PACER Plus keeps popping up time and again when meetings are held on this.

 

But while there are reports out there, many do not exactly understand what PACER Plus means beyond the acronym.

PACER (or the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations) Plus is the proposed free trade agreement between the Pacific Island Forum countries and Australia and New Zealand.

It looks at trade in goods, trade in services, investment and movement of natural persons between the countries who are party to this agreement. It is supposed to have a development element to it as well.

If it is negotiated properly, it is supposed to provide increased and improved market access, and also create employment, contributing towards the growth of the Fijian economy.

Its aim is to pursue a balanced agreement that would truly transform the Forum country economies and ensure they drive tangible benefits from international trade.

The PACER Plus Agreement is expected to offer the regional countries, as well as Fiji, better market access not only in terms of tariffs but also rules of origin, quarantine and trade facilitation.

Fiji has highlighted time and again that as a group, the Forum Islands countries need to focus discussions on key areas such as trade in goods, labour mobility and development cooperation.

As the regional free trade agreement discussions reach a critical stage of negotiations, there needs to be more concerted efforts from all ends to ensure viable and sustainable outcomes of the talks.

An important role is played by the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) which was a supposedly independent body established to provide advice and support for the negotiations of the PACER Plus.

However, there are beliefs now that the element of independence for OCTA may have been compromised by the assistance it is receiving from some donor elements.

The Fijian Government has raised serious concerns over the role of the OCTA in the PACER Plus negotiations.

Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Faiyaz Siddiq Koya, has stressed it has been observed that OCTA has started to determine the negotiating positions of the Pacific Island countries.

His comments were made on Monday as he opened the PACER Plus 13th Intersessional meeting at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi.

“While we appreciate the OCTA’s input into the process, it is the Pacific Island countries that will be legally bound and required to implement the agreement,” he said.

Therefore, Mr Koya said it should be the Pacific Island countries which must own the negotiation process.

He has therefore encouraged members participating in these negotiations, including OCTA, to take on board the concerns raised by the private sector and civil society and address them accordingly.

“And it is my plea to OCTA to faithfully convey the Pacific’s position to Australia and New Zealand, our negotiating partners,” Mr Koya said.

“Most of the time, Fijian officials are frustrated and exhausted by negotiating with OCTA. This is a departure from the objectives OCTA was established for.”

RACHNA LAL

Feedback:  rachnal@fijisun.com.fj

 



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