The Fijian government is underlining the importance of a comprehensive assessment of the fairness and effectiveness of the PACER Plus agreement before committing to join it. This sentiment was reinforced by Trade Minister and deputy Prime Minister Manoa Kamikamica following this month’s meeting of Pacific Trade Ministers in Suva.
The Fijian government’s stance comes as a response to queries from FBC News regarding the measures in place to safeguard Fiji’s interests and protect Pacific Island nations from potential trade pressures. The PACER Plus agreement, a comprehensive, development-focused free trade pact, involving economic powerhouses Australia and New Zealand, had previously faced suspension under the previous government due to concerns regarding its equitable treatment of Pacific Island Countries.
Trade Minister Kamikamica acknowledged these lingering concerns and committed to working diligently to ensure that Fiji can realize tangible benefits from the agreement. He stressed that while there is no compulsion to join PACER, the new government is inclined to reconsider or evaluate its participation, taking into account the prevailing concerns within Fiji.
Addressing the ongoing discussions about PACER Plus, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Deputy Secretary General Esala Nayasi underscored that the issue would continue to be a significant focus for the region. In the recent meeting, the primary emphasis was placed on the proposed regional strategy.
Critics of the PACER Plus agreement argue that one of its foundational principles fails to adequately consider the economic realities faced by small island developing states. In light of these concerns, the Fijian government’s commitment to a thorough evaluation reflects a cautious and measured approach towards the trade deal.
As the government deliberates on its involvement in PACER Plus, the issue remains at the forefront of regional trade discussions, reflecting the complexities and sensitivities surrounding trade agreements in the Pacific region.
PACER Plus, short for the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus, is a trade and economic cooperation agreement that encompasses a group of Pacific Island nations. It was designed to promote regional economic integration and development, aiming to boost trade and investment in the Pacific region. Negotiations for PACER Plus commenced in 2009, with Australia and New Zealand playing prominent roles in the talks. The agreement was officially concluded in 2017 after years of discussions and some adjustments to address concerns of smaller Pacific Island countries. It entered into force in December 2020 and currently includes 11 signatory nations, with more in the region considering participation. PACER Plus represents an important milestone in the ongoing efforts to enhance economic cooperation and growth in the Pacific, although its adoption has been met with various responses and debates within the region.