PORT VILA, (VANUATU DAILY POST) – The official decision is yet to be made, but Vanuatu is already organising itself to better suit the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) when the time comes to put pen to paper.
Early this week Prime Minister Charlot Salwai said during an interview that the Government through the Council of Ministers (COM) is not yet in a clear position concerning PACER Plus.
But having signed the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement, Salwai said Vanuatu won’t be able to isolate itself for the rest of the region if more countries join PACER Plus.
For that reason the government is already maneuvering itself to see how it can benefit from the agreement when it becomes a member.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has conducted consultations and will submit the outcome to the COM soon.
Salwai pointed out that a component of the agreement that is significant to Vanuatu is labour mobility since Vanuatu is already benefiting from sending workers to New Zealand and Australian through the Recognized Seasonal Employment (RSC) Scheme and the Seasonal Worker Programme (SWP).
“During the last consultation with the Ministers and Members of Parliament we found out that it’s more to do with the implementation with our laws,” said Salwai.
“It means that we are not enforcing enough our laws because some concerns that were raised are more to do with the implementation of our laws.
“There is need to improve those legislations in order to meet the requirements and be ready to face the consequences of this trade agreement either with PACER Plus or even the MSG Trade Agreement which Vanuatu is yet to sign because we are a looser inside.
“It’s a matter of negotiation which the government through the Council of Ministers has not yet reached a final decision regarding this issue.
“The Government will need to consider peoples’ concerns.
“It is something that will happen sooner or later. When more member countries sign, there won’t be any other way but to join.
“For example, the MSG Trade Agreement, if three countries join, we have no choice but to join.
“But it is our responsibility, the nation, our leaders must ensure that we are ready to face the challenge and consequences that these Trade Agreements can cause to the country.
“We have to be proactive, rather than reactive towards this issue because sooner or later it will happen.”
Prime Minister Charlot Salwai made the statement during a press conference during the Heads of Missions meeting this week.
The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) is presented as a trade and economic integration agreement that aims to create jobs, raise standards of living and encourage sustainable economic development in the Pacific region.