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Expert: Fiji took right approach

Fiji Times, Suva

Expert: Fiji took right approach

By Felix Chaudhary

24 June 2016

Fiji took the right approach by exercising caution when dealing with Australia and New Zealand on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus).

This was the view of international trade expert on services and investment Professor Jane Kelsey from the Faculty of Law at Auckland University.

Professor Kelsey has been a harsh critic of the way Australia and New Zealand handled negotiations in numerous trade agreements including PICTA (Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement), PACER and PACER Plus.

"Fiji has been denied the right to revisit parts of the text that were ’agreed’ upon when they were absent from the negotiations, having been excluded improperly after their suspension from the Forum," she said.

"I am sure they understand the harmful aspects of the parts of the agreement that I analysed, especially because they have very few obligations on services in the WTO (World Trade Organization) and are not signatories to the PICTA trade in services protocol. I would hope they continue to exercise that degree of caution by not committing themselves to PACER Plus as well."

All Forum Island countries have expressed a keen desire to participate in PACER Plus, except Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

During a visit to Fiji last week, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he was optimistic of a positive outcome in view of the job opportunities offered through PACER Plus in his country and neighbouring Australia.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, however, called on New Zealand to understand Fiji’s position when it came to trade negotiations.

While welcoming Mr Key, he called on New Zealand to seek a new relationship with Fiji that was more equal and mooted in mutual respect. Mr Bainimarama called for more understanding on New Zealand’s part on Fiji’s priorities, whether it was on trade with PACER Plus or Fiji’s desire to reform regional groupings to give Pacific Islanders a bigger voice.