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Pacific Island nations seek closer economic ties with NZ, Australia

Angola Press, Luanda, 3 June 2005

Pacific Island nations seek closer economic ties with NZ, Australia

WELLINGTON, 06/03 - Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) countries have decided it is now time to move beyond their existing SPARTECA agreement with Australia and New Zealand, according to reports from Nadi, Fiji, on Friday.

The PIF members wanted to advance towards a more comprehensive framework for trade and economic cooperation, as provided for under PACER.

SPARTECA, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, is the non-reciprocal agreement dating back to 1981 which provides for duty-free access of Pacific Island goods into the Australian and New Zealand markets. PACER, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (CER), which came into force in 2002, provides for eventual negotiations on reciprocal free trade.

The decision emerged from the review of PACER initiated at an ongoing meeting in Nadi of Forum trade ministers.

The Forum trade ministers called Friday for a joint study of the potential impact of a region-wide CER. They also requested a gap analysis of their needs in respect of capacity building, trade promotion, and structural reform. This is to take into account a study on their progress with fiscal reform, which is to go before economic ministers who will meet soon in Tuvalu. The work will also bear in mind the progress island countries are making in their negotiation of an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union.

Trade officials will get back together once the studies are completed, to make recommendations to ministers.

The trade ministers also called for effective implementation of the Regional Trade Facilitation Program under PACER to ensure Pacific Island countries can participate meaningfully in regional trade.

This program covers facilitation work in the area of customs, quarantine, and standards and conformance.

The ministers described it as a conduit for greater economic integration as called for under the Pacific Plan, reached by Forum members to push forward cooperation among the member nations.

The meeting was attended by all the independent nations in the South Pacific.

 source: Angola Press