The Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) is an FTA on trade in goods among 14 members of the Pacific Islands Forum. (Australia and New Zealand are excluded.) It was signed in 2001. Eleven countries — Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu — have so far ratified PICTA. As of 2008, it is being expanded to trade in services.
The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations or PACER is a framework agreement to deepen trade and investment liberalisation in the broader Pacific on a step by step basis. It was signed in 2001 and came into force in 2002. PACER includes Australia and New Zealand, who are excluded from PICTA and commits all members to begin negotiations towards a free trade agreement by 2011 at the latest. In August 2008, Simon Crean, Australia’s Trade Minister at the time, started advocating a "PACER-plus" agreement, in lieu of the originally envisaged FTA, which signals the aggressiveness of Australia’s stance to achieve an agreement, particularly given the EU’s pending EPA with the Pacific Island states. A number of officials and civil society critiques from the Pacific Islands have stated that the PACER deal is of little benefit to them, some pushing for greater labour mobility for Pacific Island workers to Australia and New Zealand. In June 2011, Fiji’s Attorney-General charged that PACER is only really benefitting the economically powerful in the region – Australia and New Zealand.
last update: May 2012
Agreement must be development-centered
While Fiji has rejoined the Pacific agreement on closer economic relations (PACER) Plus negotiations after a lapse of more than five years, the road to reaching a mutual agreement has not been easy.
Fourteen Pacific Island Forum countries are currently locked in negotiations with their two largest economic neighbours, Australia and New Zealand, to forge a new regional free trade agreement called ‘PACER Plus’, which supporters believe will boost economic growth in the region.
The Pacific Network on Globalisation have launched their campaign against the regional free trade agreement, known as PACER-Plus.
Pacific civil society organisations, including gender groups, environmental groups and regional non-government groups have called for the immediate suspension of the regional trade negotiations, known as PACER-Plus, and the release of the secret texts under negotiations.
Independent Australian organisations, the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network and AID/WATCH, have voiced serious concerns about the PACER-Plus Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiated between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Countries.
In the middle of July, Pacific Island Trade Ministers will meet in Samoa with their Australian and New Zealand counterparts to discuss whether or not to expand the negotiations of PACER-Plus to include services and investment, reports the Pacific Network on Globalisation.
Papua New Guinea’s trade Minister, Richard Maru, recently set a cat amongst the pigeons by saying that PNG was not interested in the regional trade negotiations known as PACER-Plus. “We can’t export our taro there, they won’t accept our greens...There’s nothing to be gained from a trade agreement at the moment. ‘We cannot justify the huge amount of resources we expend on such negotiations. They are a complete waste of time.”
The Pacific’s Chief Trade Advisor has resigned with a warning that unless Australia and New Zealand act soon to put something of value on the table for the PACER plus trade negotiations, the talks risk falling over.
Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has questioned the merits of trade agreements that serve to benefit the economically powerful more than developing economies.