Arena accuses NZ Govt of ambushing Pacific on trade deal
6 May 2009
This weekend’s meeting of Pacific trade ministers in Auckland to progress the launch of PACER+ trade negotiations has all the hallmarks of an Australian and New Zealand ambush, the Arena network said today.
“Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said last Friday that he and the Australians have agreed on a joint strategy to link aid and trade ahead of a meeting with Pacific trade ministers on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER),” Arena spokesperson Dr Jane Kelsey said.
“This sounds like the bullying tactics of old, with aid used as a carrot or stick to get Pacific Island Countries to agree to what the ‘big brothers’ are demanding.”
“The current Solomon Islands ‘roadmap’ for PACER+ has two sets of square brackets - one for the slow process proposed by the Pacific Island Countries, and the other for the rapid timeline sought by Australia and New Zealand.”
The agenda for the weekend’s meeting suggests they plan to push Pacific ministers to agree to a date for launching the negotiations before the senior officials meet in Vanuatu in mid-May, Jane Kelsey said.
“The studies on PACER+ that will be discussed on the weekend have mainly been commissioned by Australia and New Zealand to bolster their case.”
“The ‘consensus’ approach to decision making means once Pacific countries have been pressured into an agreement even informally, Australia and New Zealand will insist on a consensus to change it.”
“At this stage not all the Pacific trade ministers have agreed to come to Auckland, which will further undermine any claim to consensus.”
“Fiji also thinks it is still invited, although New Zealand says otherwise.”
“The government pretends that its aim is to promote Pacific development. NGOs and churches in the region point out that it is really about ideology and old colonial powers using trade agreements as a weapon to dominate the region.”
Arena supports the call for the PACER negotiations to be abandoned in favour of a genuine development programme for the region, Jane Kelsey said.
Arena is an Aotearoa/New Zealand network of individuals and organizations committed to resist corporate ‘globalization’ in all its forms. Arena stands for an alternative development model based on self-determination, social justice, genuine people-centered development and environmental sustainability.