Koya: Fiji Won’t Endorse PACER Plus Legal Text

Fiji will not be endorsing the PACER Plus legal text at the Forum Leaders meeting that will be held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia at the end of the
10 Sep 2016 08:18
Koya: Fiji Won’t Endorse PACER Plus Legal Text
Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Siqqid Koya during the press conference at the Sheraton Fiji Resort on Denarau yesterday. Photo; WAISEA NASOKIA

Fiji will not be endorsing the PACER Plus legal text at the Forum Leaders meeting that will be held in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia at the end of the week.

This has been announced yesterday during a press conference by the Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism, Faiyaz Siddiq Koya.

This was the first official statement made by Mr Koya since he returned from PACER Plus meetings in Christchurch two weeks ago.

Mr Koya further stated that Fiji will withdraw from PACER Plus if Australia and New Zealand do not show flexibility on its key concerns.

This call comes following the Forum Trade Ministers Meeting where Fiji’s key concerns were not fully addressed.

Fiji also called upon other Forum Island Countries Leaders to support the Forum Island Countries Lead Spokesperson, Milner Tozaka of Solomon Islands, asking to re-open the Trade in Goods chapter.

Mr Koya said Fiji and the Pacific Island countries on their part, have demonstrated substantial flexibility in the negotiations of PACER Plus.

“The agreement was labeled by the Australian and New Zealand Leaders to be a development-oriented agreement and not a traditional free trade agreement,” he said.

“In fact, Australia and New Zealand have back-tracked on their initial commitment of a development oriented PACER Plus.

“The two key aspects of this, that is, Labour Mobility and Development Cooperation are both legally non-binding, which essentially means that Australia and New Zealand can withdraw these arrangements at any time.

“As intimated through the letter by the Lead Spokesperson of the Forum Island Countries, the Industry Development article in the Trade in Goods chapter needs to be an operative provision.

“One that can be used for future-proofing our new and emerging industries.”


Government’s vision

Mr Koya said the Fijian Government has a vision to grow the Fijian economy from within and we are doing this by providing support to our micro, small and medium enterprises.

“These are the industries that will one day excel, therefore, we should be able to promote the development of these industries to be internationally competitive,” he said.

“Hence, we need to have relevant policy space to be able to provide these industries some leverage to reach their competitive state.

“For example, the Fijian Government has taken the growth of the agriculture sector to provide sustainable livelihoods, food security and the commercial link to tourism value-chains very seriously.

“There is significant potential for growth in agricultural commodities such as seafood, fresh fruits and vegetable, rice, potatoes, poultry and dairy.

“Similarly, with our manufacturing sector, Fiji is developing competence in the building and construction industry, as the supplier of building materials in the region.

“We are also developing Fiji as an ICT hub and as a location for business process and back office and customer service operations.

“These industries need room to grow. Therefore, infant industry development is crucial for us.”


Most Favoured Nation

Mr Koya said this has been Fiji’s key redline issue, together with the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clause, which currently aims to limit our aspirations to strengthen South-South trade relations.

“By including an MFN clause in the agreement, Australia and New Zealand are forcing Fiji and the rest of the Forum Island Countries to provide the same preferences that may in future be negotiated with any other country, including developing countries, to them,” he said.

“It should be noted that Australia and New Zealand do not have MFN clauses in majority of their concluded trade agreements with larger countries than those in the Pacific.

“Fiji cannot constrain its trade policy space in this regard, given the close relationship we have with countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, in the areas of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises development for example.

“It is only natural that Fiji may, in future, enter into a trade and development agreement with these countries, with better preferences being offered to Fiji.

“Therefore, we need the flexibility to be able to give them something better, however, the current MFN clause in PACER Plus is limiting this form of cooperation.

“Simply said, an operative industry development provision that can be used for the lifetime of the agreement.

“An MFN treatment clause limited only to developed countries need to be entrenched in the legal text in order for Fiji to consider its participation in PACER Plus.”


In its entirety

Mr Koya stated PACER Plus in its current form offers limited gains to the Pacific parties, but will open up our markets to Australia and New Zealand products at preferential rates.

“Under SPARTECA, Fiji and the Pacific already have 100 percent access to the Australian and New Zealand markets, therefore, they are not giving us anything new in PACER Plus,” he said.

“We look forward to other Forum Island Leaders to support Fiji’s stance, only to ensure that we have a truly development friendly PACER Plus that will stand the test of time and will successfully integrate the Pacific into the global trading sphere.”

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