The Trade Ministers of Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu yesterday announced that they have concluded negotiations for PACER Plus – the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus.

The Negotiating Parties are currently preparing the text for legal release, and plan to sign the Agreement at a ceremony in Tonga on June 16, 2017.

The ministers of 12 Forum Island Countries (FICs) countries that concluded negotiations excluded Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Fiji.

Daily Post has been informed by the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) that PNG was part of the FICs negotiating PACER Plus but it decided to negotiate its own bilateral deal with Australia and New Zealand.

Fiji was part of the negotiations but wanted more concessions from Australia and New Zealand.

The 12 FICs, together with Australia and New Zealand then agreed to conclude the negotiations without Fiji.

Fiji and PNG can always accede to the Agreement when they are ready, OCTA told Daily Post.

The ministers in a joint statement, through OCTA, said this is a landmark trade and development agreement covering trade in goods, services and investment in support of economic growth in the region.

“No country has achieved high and lasting growth without participating in international trade.

“PACER Plus once implemented will make it easier for businesses to trade and invest across the Pacific region.

“It will remove barriers to trade, including tariffs, at a pace that takes into account the varied levels of development, and the unique vulnerability and fragility of Smaller Island States and Small Island Developing States.

“Under the Agreement, Australia and New Zealand will jointly provide AUD7.7 million to help parties make the legal changes necessary for implementation in advance of the agreement entering into force.

“This will include modernisation of customs and clearance systems to facilitate trade, a measure that will be welcomed by businesses trading in the region.

“A further AUD25.5 million in development assistance will be made available after ratification to enable Pacific Island countries to take full advantage of the agreement.

“This investment will support a comprehensive work program including biosecurity strengthening, improved quality standards and promoting services trade and investment.

“This package would be complemented by increased spending on aid for trade with a view to enhancing the participation of the Pacific Island Countries in international trade. In that regard, Australia, consistent with its Strategy for Aid for Trade Investments, has undertaken to target 20 per cent of its Pacific Official Development Assistance budget for aid for trade initiatives.

“New Zealand has committed to target 20 per cent of its total overseas development assistance budget for aid for trade.

“These investments will bolster the productive capacity of the FICs and improve their trade-related infrastructure.

“Complementing the agreement is a stand-alone Labour Mobility Arrangement, which will establish a broad framework for labour mobility cooperation and support efforts to build labour supply capacity in Pacific Island Countries. Increased labour mobility will deliver remittances to Pacific Island Countries and help meet unmet demand in Australia and New Zealand,” the joint statement concludes.

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