Australia and New Zealand sign free trade agreement with opacific Island states – June 2017
The Australian Government has signed-off on a trade agreement that it says will help drive economic growth and raise living standards in our region.
Assistant Minister for Trade Keith Pitt signed the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) at a ceremony in Tonga.
PACER Plus is a comprehensive free trade agreement covering goods, services and investment. The signing included Australia, New Zealand and eight Pacific island countries – Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Tuvalu.
Mr Pitt said: “PACER Plus is unique in that it is both a trade and a development agreement. It has the potential to reshape the economic fundamentals of the Pacific region by creating new opportunities for trade and investment in our neighbourhood.
“PACER Plus will also support development outcomes by helping Pacific island countries engage in regional and global trade. No country has achieved high and lasting growth without participating in international trade.
“Australia, New Zealand and Pacific island countries have a close and valuable relationship.
“PACER Plus will provide an important avenue to achieve Australia's objective to foster a secure, stable and prosperous region.
AAP reported, “Three of the region's biggest island nations - Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji - have snubbed the deal because of criticism it favours Australian and NZ interests.”
Radio New Zealand reported the Vanuatu parliament had united in opposition to PACER Plus.
“The Vanuatu opposition has congratulated the government for its decision not to sign the PACER Plus trade agreement,’ Radio New Zealand reported.
“Vanuatu said last week that it was not yet ready to sign the trade and aid deal for Pacific nations with Australia and New Zealand, joining Fiji and Papua New Guinea in their opposition.
“The opposition leader Ishmael Kalsakau said he is happy the government had finally heard the concerns raised on behalf of the people about the possible impacts the agreement would have on Vanuatu.
“Mr Kalsakau believes the agreement will mean more cheap imported goods, which he says may contribute to an increase in the number of cases of non-communicable diseases in Vanuatu.”