Call for public submissions on PACER Plus

Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) formally invites public submissions and comments on a prospective trade and economic agreement between Australia, New Zealand and Forum Island Countries.

The Forum Island Countries are: the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The Fiji Interim Government is currently suspended from attending Forum meetings.

This new trade and economic agreement is known as PACER Plus and is intended to be a unique agreement, with trade capacity building and trade development assistance to strengthen Pacific island countries' ability to trade. This approach supports Australia's objective of assisting the region to promote sustainable economic development.

PACER Plus will include individual schedules of commitments and tailored trade development assistance taking into account the particular circumstances of each country. PACER Plus will provide a framework for greater trade and economic integration between the countries of the Pacific, promote sustainable development and ease their gradual integration into the world economy.

Australia's primary motivation in supporting PACER Plus is to help the Forum Island Countries (FICs) to promote sustainable economic development. We nonetheless expect that improved market access may enhance some opportunities for Australian exporters, investors and service providers in Pacific markets.
Guidance on preparing submissions

Submissions will help the Australian Government to identify potential areas where it can assist the economies of the Pacific through trade-related development assistance. We welcome submissions in any format: from a short email to a more comprehensive analytical paper.

We welcome comments on specific issues which prevent greater trade and investment between countries of the Pacific and Australia, and which might be addressed through the economic development elements of the agreement. Some issues of particular interest include:

* barriers to trade in goods, including: tariffs, tariff rate quotas, import licensing, technical regulations and standards, customs procedures, quarantine and local content requirements/rules of origin;
* ability to deliver services through a variety of mechanisms, including establishing a commercial presence, and/or temporary movement of personnel; as well as regulatory issues relating to the recognition of qualifications and granting of licences to practice a particular profession;
* labour mobility, especially the ability for unskilled and semi-skilled Pacific Islanders to engage in seasonal work in Australia;
* any measures that impact on investment in both directions; and
* development activities that could be undertaken within the PACER Plus framework to help Forum Island countries overcome their geographic, resource and capacity constraints and participate fully in the global economy.

Observations based on current experience in Pacific Island markets will be of particular interest.

You may also wish to raise more general issues associated with PACER Plus, including comments on commercial, economic, regional, social, cultural, regulatory and environmental impacts that could be expected to arise from Australia's participation in PACER Plus negotiations.

We plan to publish submissions on the DFAT website, unless notified otherwise. Please indicate if you do not want your submission to be made publicly available.

Initial submissions are sought by 31 July 2009. In addition, a round of stakeholder consultations will be held in selected cities. If you are interested in attending, please register your contact details via PACERPlus@dfat.gov.au

Submissions may be made electronically to PACERPlus@dfat.gov.au, or by post or fax to:

PACER Plus FTA Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R G Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221

Fax: 02 6261 2661
Forum Trade Ministers recommend PACER Plus negotiations commence

The Pacific Island Forum Trade Ministers' meeting in Apia, Samoa on 17 June 2009, gave fresh impetus toward negotiations on PACER Plus.

The Ministerial Statement adopted in Apia recommends to Leaders that PACER Plus negotiations be launched following the Pacific Island Forum Leaders' meeting in Cairns in August 2009. Forum Trade Ministers also highlighted the importance of deepening regional trade integration as a means to create jobs, enhance private sector growth, raise standards of living and advance the region's sustainable economic development.

Speaking from Apia, Australia's Minister for Trade, Simon Crean and the Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, visited Apia, Samoa welcomed the outcomes of the meeting. Mr Crean and Mr McMullan also announced that Australia would provide significant new funding to assist Forum Island Countries to take full advantage of market access opportunities. This increased funding is in addition to the funding that Australia has provided to assist Forum Island Countries to identify trade priorities and needs, build trade negotiation capacity and to participate in PACER Plus negotiations.
Background

At the 2008 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' meeting held in Niue, a communiqué was adopted that reaffirmed the continuing importance of pursuing greater economic integration and trade as a regional priority and endorsed the need for officials to formulate a detailed roadmap on PACER Plus, with a view to Leaders agreeing at the August 2009 Forum to the commencement of negotiations.

This Pacific Islands Forum Leaders' decision demonstrated regional recognition at the highest level that trade and economic growth are inextricably linked. The benefits of improved trade with Australia are borne out by statistics that indicate that in total goods and services trade Pacific Island countries maintain a trade surplus with Australia.

The AusAID-commissioned study on the "Benefits, Challenges and Way Forward on PACER Plus" predicts a significant increase in trade volumes (up to 30%) from the elimination of regional trade barriers and improved efficiencies.

In a February 2009 speech the Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, said Australia's aim with regard to PACER Plus is to secure greater regional economic integration in a way that promotes the sustainable economic development of Pacific Island countries and aids their gradual and progressive integration into the international economy. Australia is determined that PACER Plus will take account of the individual circumstances of Pacific Island countries and have a strong development focus: a truly 'trade-plus' agreement.

Australia is already working with Pacific Island countries on a package of trade capacity and trade development assistance, including: the Australian Leadership Award Pacific Trade Fellowships program and Trade Research Initiative. The Trade Fellowships program is providing training to Pacific Island country officials to lift their trade negotiating capacity and to support preparations for PACER Plus negotiations. Under the Trade Research Initiative, each Pacific Island country is able to access A$65,000 to commission independent research on trade priorities and needs. In addition to the Initiative and Fellowships program, the broader Australian aid program helps Pacific Island countries adjust to, and benefit from, globalisation.

Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, and Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan visited Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Tonga and New Zealand from 1 to 6 April to discuss the prospective PACER Plus negotiations with counterparts. Mr Crean's and Mr McMullan's remarks on PACER Plus made during joint media conferences held in Apia, Honiara and Port Vila are available.

An informal meeting of Pacific Trade Ministers was convened by New Zealand in Auckland on 8 and 9 May 2009. Australia was represented by Trade Minister, Simon Crean, and Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan. At the conclusion of the meeting, participants issued a statement recognising the importance of deepening regional trade integration and acknowledging the need to move the PACER Plus process forward to give effect to the 2008 Forum Leaders' decisions.

Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, gave a radio interview on 11 May addressing PACER Plus.
The 19th Australia - Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum was held in Brisbane on 10 June 2009. Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, and Papua New Guinea Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration, Samuel Abal both attended the Forum which was co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Stephen Smith. A large number of Ministers and officials from Papua New Guinea and Australia participated in the Forum. At the Forum, Papua New Guinea and Australia both expressed strong support for the commencement of PACER Plus negotiations from August 2009. The discussions on PACER Plus are reflected in full in the Joint Statement issued by Papua New Guinea and Australia at the conclusion of the Forum.

Prior to the Australia - Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum, Mr Crean gave a breakfast address, hosted by the Australia-Pacific Islands Business Council and other Pacific business councils, on PACER Plus and the economic potential of the Pacific region.

If you have a specific inquiry on any of these issues, please contact

DFAT's PACER Plus Section:

e-mail: PACERPlus@dfat.gov.au
Fax: +61 2 6261 2661

Post:

PACER Plus FTA Section
Pacific Regional and New Zealand Branch
Pacific Division
Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
BARTON ACT 0221

For media enquiries, please call DFAT's Media Liaison Section: +61 2 6261 1555.

http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/spacific/pacer/index.html
http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Foreign-Relations/Pacific/Trade/index.php