The regional non-governmental group, the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), is calling on Forum Island Trade Ministers meeting in Kiribati this week to learn the mistakes from previous negotiations and avoid making binding commitments in areas that will not support their exporters.
The focus of this week’s meeting is on the economic opportunities of trade promotion and facilitation reforms. This will include recognition of the recent World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on Trade Facilitation announced in Bali last year.
“The Trade Facilitation Agreement that was negotiated in Bali last year should more accurately be called an ‘import facilitation’ agreement as that is what the real outcome will be for the Pacific. It is a classic example of the rich countries agenda being forced onto developing nations such as the Pacific. The final agreement saw the rich countries getting binding commitments from Pacific countries on what they wanted but the Pacific only getting “best endeavour” language on the areas that would actually assist them” commented PANG Campaigner Adam Wolfenden.
“We need to be very clear that the WTO Pacific Islands members left Bali last year committed to channelling scarce government revenues into undertaking reforms of their import procedures. This was not an agreement that was aimed at facilitating exports from the Pacific,” added Wolfenden.
Trade Minister will also be discussing the negotiations on the regional free trade agreement known as PACER-Plus. Negotiations are covering such areas as Labour Mobility, Development Assistance, Trade in Services, Investment, and Trade in Goods.
Wolfenden continued, “There is a lot of talk about how PACER-Plus will be an agreement that is in the Pacific’s interest but we’re yet to see much evidence of that. So far neither Australia nor New Zealand have come through with any decent offer on supporting the Pacific to actually take advantage of any outcome. So far they are only offering money to implement the agreement, an offer that would ensure that the Pacific markets were left open for Australian and New Zealand exporters.”
“This is a chance for the Pacific to start a new dialogue about trade and what that means for the region and ensuring that it reflects the reality of the region and not the interests of the bigger neighbours,” concluded Wolfenden.