“AUSTRALIA and New Zealand (ANZ) have told us time and time again that they do not have a commercial interest in these negotiations, but the reality is that without substantive commitments on labour mobility and development assistance, they (ANZ) will be the major beneficiaries of this Agreement,” says Trade Negotiations Envoy Robert Sisilo.
Mr Sisilo, also Lead Spokesperson for the Forum Island Countries (FICs) on PACER-Plus, expressed his disappointment during a three day PACER-Plus meeting of FICs and ANZ senior officials held in Port Vila, Vanuatu early in the week.
MRobert Sisilo (centre and with microphone), Lead Spokesperson of the Forum Island Countries on PACER-Plus, surrounded by his Pacific colleagues – For PACER-Plus to be acceptable, the exchange rate has to be right.
“Since FICs will be undertaking legally binding commitments on Trade in Goods, Trade in Services and Investment, then it is only fair and square that ANZ also offer substantive commitments on labour mobility and development assistance – the main demands of FICs in PACER-Plus. This is the right exchange rate,” Mr Sisilo stressed.
“Regrettably that offer by ANZ, which all FICs were expecting, was not on the table during the meeting,” he added.
“What was on the table was a proposal on Labour Mobility which fell far short of the FICs’ expectations.
“You will recall that we have three main demands on Labour Mobility, namely the legal certainty of the RSE and SWP labour schemes, removal of the caps or increasing the current numbers and to include employment sectors in which the FICs have a comparative advantage such as healthcare and construction. I don’t see any of these in your proposal,” Mr Sisilo said.
On development assistance Mr Sisilo told the meeting that assisting FICs only to implement their obligations under PACER-Plus will not significantly enhance their capacities to benefit from international trade.
“We already have market access under SPARTECA and the Everything But Arms initiative of the EU, but what we need is effective trade-related assistance which would enable us to address the supply-side constraints that have prevented us from taking advantage of trading opportunities under trade agreements.
“That is what we desperately need and with flexibility and goodwill, we will be able to make substantive progress when we next meet in Adelaide in June,” Mr Sisilo emphasized.
PACER-Plus is a process launched by Forum Leaders in 2008 and now being developed to discuss, more broadly, regional economic integration of Forum Island Countries with Australia and New Zealand.
The process was formally commenced by Forum Trade Ministers in October 2009.
Ministers identified a number of priority subjects for negotiation – labour mobility, development assistance, rules of origin, trade facilitation, services and investment.