Free trade benefits remain unconvincing, says PANG - Solomon Star News

Free trade benefits remain unconvincing, says PANG

04 August 2015
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A PACIFIC regional trade network remains unconvinced of the benefits of the free trade agreement – known as PACER-Plus – as the latest round of negotiations begin on Tuesday.

The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) says that despite being sold as a 'development agreement' it is the Pacific that is shouldering the burden of legal commitments in the talks whilst Australia and NZ offer voluntary commitments.

 “The Pacific have agreed to make binding legal commitments on their sovereignty, limiting their ability to determine how and what type of investment comes into their countries, undercutting policies that maximise the benefits for local workers are just some of the examples of how bad this deal is for Pacific Island countries. Australia and New Zealand on the other hand offering only voluntary commitments can opt out on their promises of access for Pacific workers and extra aid money at will,” commented PANG Campaigner Adam Wolfenden.

The recent announcement by Australia of the removal of the cap on its Seasonal Worker Program has been sold by the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA) as a positive sign in the context of the PACER-Plus negotiations and have “re-enegised” the talks.

 “The claims by the OCTA that there is more energy back in the talks and possible momentum to conclude a deal are forgetting one crucial factor – they aren't bringing the people along with it and perhaps even some governments remain unconvinced. Churches, environment groups, gender rights activists, trade unions, farmers, academics, indigenous groups, youth groups and more have all called for the immediate suspension of the talks and the releasing of the negotiation texts so that impact assessments can be undertaken to determine the real value of PACER-Plus,” added Mr Wolfenden.

Prior to the last round of negotiations on PACER-Plus an open letter signed by over 30 civil society organisations representing a major part of Pacific people voices was released and sent to all Forum Countries calling for the immediate suspension of the talks, the release of the text and a human rights impact assessment of what is proposed under PACER-Plus.

The Chief Trade Advisor to the Forum Island Countries, Dr Kessie, has recently stated that if PACER-Plus was to increase the Pacific's share of global trade from its current amount of 0.05% to 0.5% in would result in a US$50 billion increase in annual income.

No research was release to explain how PACER-Plus could increase Pacific trade by 1000% and whether or not that increase would be for the Pacific's benefit.

Mr Wolfenden continued:

“It is clear that the people don't want PACER-Plus and that is why we're seeing the proponents of the agreement make ridiculous assertions of the proposed benefits without providing any evidence or research that supports their figures.

“They hope that if they repeat their numbers often enough people will accept them but that isn't the way to have a discussion about the future of the Pacific's economic development.”

 

The PACER-Plus negotiations were controversially launched in 2009 and include the 14 Forum Islands Countries including Australia and New Zealand.

The talks are aimed to be concluded by the end of 2016.

 

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