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By Pita Ligaiula in Apia, Samoa
Australia has welcomed Vanuatu’s signing of the PACER plus agreement at the margins of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting.
Speaking to journalists in Apia, Australian International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says the signing is a mark of effective regionalism.
“We were very pleased and welcome Vanuatu signing PACER PLUS and joining other countries of the Pacific family in this historic agreement which is a mark of effective regionalism in the trade and investment space.
“PACER Plus is not just about trade and investment it’s actually about development as well and that’s what makes it such a unique opportunity for our Pacific Island nations. We are looking forward to working with them. We look forward to increasing their customs regulatory frameworks, bio security frameworks and we look forward in ensuring that the readiness package is implemented to ensure the countries of the Pacific will hit the ground running,” Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells told journalists in Apia.
The Vanuatu based Office of Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) has long maintained that loss of revenue won't be a problem, even suggesting that economic opportunities from PACER-Plus will result in more government revenue. Yet Vanuatu is now indicating that there will in fact be some loss of revenue, enough to single it out as an issue that needs foreign assistance.
In response to adjustments to implement PACER plus, Vanuatu has called for the removal of the unfair commercial kava prohibitions into Australia and considers this as crucial.
But Concetta Fierravanti-Wells says Australia has some concerns on the issue.
“On the specific issues of kava we have obviously had discussions with Vanuatu Government in relation to those. Australia has a limit of 2kg, we have some concerns particularly about how the kava is finding its way to some of our indigenous communities and we already have issues pertinent to alcohol and other concerns that are prevalent in our indigenous communities.
“There are obviously ongoing discussions on different fronts. Australia and New Zealand have been particularly keen to ensure that there was a preparedness and readiness package and we have invested millions of dollars in ensuring that the Pacific family has access to this funds. We are in the process now of looking at the nuts and bolts to facilitate the transition.
“Obviously one of the key elements of PACER plus is to ensure that bio-security level of products from Pacific Island countries are raised to the standard particularly of Australia and New Zealand. Off course that will open up to other countries,” she said.
Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the two major economies in the Pacific had elected not to sign up, but Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Well said Australia respect the international process in different countries.
“We’ve obviously continuing our discussion. We recognise that some countries need to go through their domestic arrangements. As I indicated in the Civil Society gathering we have encouraged countries to make and avail themselves of the information that’s being put together by the office of the Trade Adviser to have a look at the impacts and to asses for themselves what the impacts is going to be for their country.
“We respect the internal processes that have to happen in different countries for countries to come to the position as Vanuatu has come to.
“We encourage them to take advantage of the office and take advantage of the materials that are publicly available, especially to take advantage of the material that assessed the impact of PACER PLUS,” said Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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