The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade successfully conducted the Luganville consultations on PACER Plus on 18 October 2016 at the chamber of the Sanma Provincial Council headquarters.
This consultation saw Luganville backing the Government to sign PACER Plus, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade says.
The Luganville consultation is the second provincial consultation round after the Port Vila consultation which occurred on the week of 21 September.
The planned consultation for Torba was deferred and plans for consultations in Malampa, Shefa, Tafea and Sanma provinces will be conducted in the coming weeks.
Given the importance of trade to the economic sector and welfare of the people of Vanuatu, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade under instruction from the Government, says it aims to achieve the objectives below through these provincial consultations:
- Remind the public about the Vanuatu government’s trade policy direction;
- Provide an update on PACER Plus negotiations;
- And to hear the considerations and thoughts of the people on PACER Plus.
Feedback received during this consultation will assist the Government in deciding upon the fate of whether or not to sign the PACER Plus agreement as negotiations are concluded at the end of this year, a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade says.
With direction and support of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Bruno Leingkone, instructions were issued for more consultations to be completed resulting from which a consultation team of four officials from the Ministry facilitated the consultation amply attended by representatives from the government departments, the private sector, NGOs and producers of local products. Secretary General of Sanma Province, Mr. Zachariah Daniels, opened the consultations by warmly welcoming all participants and the Ministry’s consultation team at the provincial headquarters.
In his opening remarks, the SG acknowledged the advantage Vanuatu had in relation to land ownership and emphasized the importance of fixing domestic policies and systems to take advantage of trade agreements and to ensure efficient facilitation of trade.
The SG recognized that domestic policies deficiencies and some obstacles can be easily identified as barriers to trade.
Participants listening to the PACER Plus consultations need to balance the need for more trade, creating an environment for increased economic activities in Vanuatu, protecting the needs of Vanuatu and seeking ways and means to remove those barriers to trade, the statement continued.
The SG urged all participants at the consultation to listen actively and ask as much questions as possible because there is real potential in the PACER Plus to assist Vanuatu as well as the rest of the Forum Island countries in the region (parties to the agreement).
The consultation comprised of three sessions. The first session begun with a look at the Trade Policy Framework and the various other overarching sector policies taking into account the fact that PACER Plus is an agreement that considers the Government’s stance in all sectors. Participants were informed of the interrelationships between all sectors of the economy and how the Trade Policy Framework acts as an overarching document under which PACER Plus negotiations have been conducted.
This ensures that all sectoral interests and priorities and future directions are catered for demonstrating the wide coverage of economic interests and inclusiveness of PACER Plus discussions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade says.
Another session focused on an overview of the PACER Plus whereby participants were informed of the history of the trade negotiations, a journey that begun back in the 90s.
With this overview, participants were given an opportunity to appreciate the deliberate and thorough negotiating process. Assurance was further given that the trade agreement text is available for public consumption upon request however the text is a living document with some sections still being negotiated/adjusted.
The final session on trade in services and goods, investment, labor mobility and development assistance laid to rest a lot of the participants’ misgivings about the vulnerability of domestic industries and the fear of inhibiting investors from investing in Vanuatu.
Overall the ministry says feedback from the consultation depicted that there was more clarity on what PACER Plus really is and that Vanuatu has had its own voice all along in the trade negotiations. With this assurance, participants ended the day with clarity and hope in the potential of the PACER Plus trade agreement, the statement from the ministry says.
The Luganville consultations saw overwhelming support of the Vanuatu Government in signing the PACER Plus agreement.
The next PACER Plus consultations will be carried out in Penama Province on Ambae, at Saratamata today (Thursday 20 October) and at Lolopuepue on 21 October 2016.