You might also like
Author: Matthew Dornan, ANU
In April this year, trade ministers from Australia, New Zealand and 12 independent Pacific island states agreed to a regional trade agreement, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus, to be signed in June — bringing to an end almost a decade of sometimes acrimonious negotiations.
Dampening the celebrations somewhat was the fact that Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Fiji — the two largest Pacific island countries — did not attend. PNG had already signalled it would not sign the agreement, preferring to pursue bilateral deals with Australia and New Zealand, as well as a multilateral trade deal already negotiated with other Melanesian states (Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu). Fiji’s inclusion remains uncertain, with ongoing concerns regarding infant industry protection and most favoured nation measures.
Since the outset of negotiations, commentary in relation to PACER Plus has been polarised. The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG), which has featured prominently in the regional press, describes the agreement as ‘unbalanced’ in favour of Australia and New Zealand. The Vanuatu Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said that the agreement will result in ‘loss of government revenue, loss of policy space to support ni-Vanuatu industries, and the loss of the right to protect its people and natural resources’.