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
Cook Islands Prime Minister has signalled his government will shortly ratify a major regional trade agreement.
Pacer Plus has been promoted as a hybrid development and trade deal, with the primary benefits going to the nine Pacific countries that have signed the deal.
Samoa becomes the first of the Pacific Island nations and the third country overall to ratify the agreement, known as PACER Plus.
Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker has congratulated Samoa on their ratification of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus).
The Cook Islands’ decision to hit pause on the deal was over the country’s impending graduation from developing to developed-country-status. Under its new status it may no longer be eligible for official development assistance, including under PACER Plus.
The concerns held by Pacific communities and some Pacific island governments about the regional free trade agreement known as PACER-Plus are well founded according to new analysis released by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).
New Zealand has become the first country to ratify a Pacific free trade deal.
PACER-Plus is a highly problematic FTA containing far too many concessions by Forum Island Countries to Australia and New Zealand, reshaping Pacific Island economies.
The PNG government is doing some soul searching over whether to join the Pacer Plus free trade deal and potentially could sign up by the end of the year.
PACER-Plus will undermine the right of governments to regulate, and see the Pacific bear the burden of binding commitments in the areas of interest to Australia and New Zealand whilst getting little legal commitments in return.