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We want equal PACER Plus treatment: Ali

 

Jun 28, 2014 03:03:04 PM

We want equal PACER Plus treatment: Ali Fiji's Ministry of Trade and Industry Permanent Secretary Shaheen Ali has said the country will only agree to engage in the PACER Plus negotiations if its treated as an equal partner.

Opening the New Zealand-Fiji Business Council conference in Suva today, Ali said the country welcomes the Pacific Island Forum Leaders' decision to include Fiji in the negotiations.

However, he says Fiji will only take part if the development agreement is inclusive to all, particularly Pacific Island countries.

"If Fiji were to take up this invitation, our main objective would be to ensure the PACER Plus lives up to its purpose as a "development agreement", and not as an unbalanced agreement between the Pacific and developed partner," Ali said.

"As is proposed in PACER Plus, if Pacific Island countries were to grant Australia and New Zealand duty-free access to their markets, the Pacific could potentially lose out on a significant portion of their government revenue and their infant industries could close, resulting in loss of employment."

He told those gathered the adverse effects on Pacific Island countries could be cushioned by way of introducing schemes that include labour mobility, development cooperation and foreign direct investment to create new industries in the agreement.

"Labour mobility, development co-operation and investments are vital for the sustainable development of the Pacific Island countries.

"Therefore, New Zealand and Australia need to make legally binding commitments on allowing labour mobility, on providing the necessary technical and financial assistance and on enhancing foreign direct investments in the region, in return for the commitments the region will make for duty free access."

"Fiji also believes that New Zealand and Australia should provide the region with treatment equal to or better than what it provides to its other trading partners, such as China, Bangladesh, Singapore, or Indonesia.

"We need better access, better Rules of Origin and greater priority for Customs and Biosecurity clearance, under PACER Plus. This will enable small Pacific islands to compete on equal footing."

Ali further said his utterances should not be seen on a negative light because "in order to move forward we have to understand where we have come from."

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