Lead spokesperson for the forum island countries (FICs) on PACER-Plus Robert Sisilo, has backed the vice-president of the Republic of Kiribati, when she told forum trade ministers meeting in Tarawa last week that PACER-Plus holds much promise for the FICs and they should ensure that the agreement lives up to it’s ideals.
In opening the first trade ministerial meeting held in Tarawa, vice-president Teima Onoria called on Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) to be more flexible on labour mobility and development assistance so that PACER-Plus negotiations be brought to a close and parties, particularly the FICs, can start enjoying the benefits.
“No truer words have been spoken and we the FICs fully endorse her call on ANZ to move from their current positions on these two important issues.
“Our economies are fragile and we strongly believe that labour mobility and development assistance in a PACER-Plus wil enable us to put in place the framework to create and support a stable and prosperous Pacific region,” Mr Sisilo told the ministerial meeting.
To back his argument, Mr Sisilo referred to a recent World Bank Report entitled “Well Being from Work in the Pacific Island Countries” in which the report states loud and clear that the Pacific Island Countries cannot achieve export-led growth owing to their perculiar circumstances.
“The report calls on ANZ to open up their labour markets to the FICs and ensure consistency between their aid and immigration policies. We fully endorse the recommendations of the World Bank and we hope that ANZ will see the bigger picture and the economic logic of opening up their labour markets which just cannot be disputed,” Mr Sisilo said.
The ministers, following their discussions, directed officials to intensify their engagement, particularly on labour mobility and development assistance, when they meet next week in Adelaide, Australia.
PACER-Plus is a process launched by forum leaders in 2008 and now being developed to discuss, more broadly, regional economic integration of FICs with ANZ.
Labour mobility and development assistance are the two main demands of the FICs in PACER-Plus.