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
Pacific countries already signed up to the PACER Plus are being urged to more closely examine their commitments under the deal, including the implications for customary land.
The private sector in Vanuatu has expressed surprise the government had reversed its position on the PACER PLUS trade deal despite opposition from the businesses affected.
Vanuatu has signed up to PACER Plus trade deal in Samoa - three months after most regional countries agreed to the trade agreement.
With the signing process now concluded, PACER Plus will take effect 60 days after eight negotiating parties complete their domestic processes and have notified the depositary accordingly.
Papua New Guinea is still realigning internal issues and is not ready to make commitments under Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (Pacer-Plus) an official says.
The Vanuatu opposition has congratulated the government for its decision not to sign the PACER Plus trade agreement.
A region-wide free trade agreement has been signed in Tonga, with some notable absences.
PACER-Plus will have a serious impact on the ability for Solomon Islanders to determine for themselves their own development future.
The Tonga Public Service Association has called for a delay in the signing of the PACER Plus trade and development deal until the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit in September.
The PACER-Plus model of development is based on an increasingly questionable form of economics which naively imagines that national economies will adapt automatically to enhanced price signals from liberalised international markets from which ’distortions’ are removed.