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Fiji's stand on the regional trade agreement PACER Plus was reiterated to its New Zealand trading partners at a meeting in Auckland, New Zealand Thursday.
PACER Plus was signed by 10 Forum Member countries in Tonga, except Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
Fiji's Minister for Industry, Trade and Tourism Faiyaz Koya said for Fiji and the rest of the Pacific participating countries, PACER Plus in its current form remained a traditional free trade agreement and there was an urgent need to make PACER Plus a balanced and development friendly agreement before Fiji could consider returning to the table.
However, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat secretary-general Dame Meg Taylor said the signature of the trade deal marked and important milestone for the Pacific region.
“The implementation of the PACER Plus must ensure that the development needs of the Forum Island Countries are addressed through sustainable trade and economic development,” Dame Taylor said.
As part of the PACER Plus Australia and New Zealand will provide appropriate resources for the implementation of PACER Plus with respect to the development and economic cooperation, and for the broader trade related assistance needs of the FICs.
According to the PIFS, a Readiness Package of $A7.7 million ($F12m) is available to signatories of PACER-Plus to assist in the work that needs to be undertaken to facilitate the ratification of the agreement.
A further $A25.5m ($F40m) allocation has also been committed to assist Forum Island Countries implement PACER Plus.
Australia, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu have signed PACER Plus.
Koya said: “Our message has been clear from the onset that it is supposed to be a development agreement, which should help Pacific countries to smoothly integrate into the regional and global trading system.
“To this end, Fiji had continued to push for inclusion of pro-development provisions, such as the Infant Industry Development clause and amendments to the Most Favoured Nation clause in the Agreement.
"Hence, we cannot allow PACER Plus or any trade agreement for that matter, to limit our development aspirations by taking away the flexibility to support our new and emerging industries and constraining our ability to strengthen South-South trade relations,” said Koya.
SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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