Consultations about the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (P.A.C.E.R) Plus happening in Samoa this week is seeking views from national stakeholders.
The series of workshops is part of an awareness campaign on P.A.C.E.R. Plus hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in partnership with the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (O.C.T.A).
More than fifty academics, government officials and those from private sector attended the P.A.C.E.R. Plus workshop being held at the Development Bank of Samoa conference room.
The Chief of O.C.T.A., Dr. Edwini Kessie spoke about the development impacts of the agreement.
Dr. Kessie said the trade in services can play an important role in the development of services sectors and have positive impact on trade in goods.
“Services are potential source of export diversification,” he told the participants.
“This is particularly important for small island states where manufacturing capacity is limited.”
“Liberalization of trade in services is likely to generate gains because barriers are often prohibitive and not revenue generating.”
P.A.C.E.R. Plus is the trade agreement currently being negotiated between the forum island countries together with Australia and New Zealand.
M.F.A.T. Assistant Chief Executive Officer in Trade, Nella Tavita Levy said the overall objective of the deal is to facilitate trade and a platform of trading opportunities.
Mrs. Levy said one of the benefits is having products from Samoa to N.Z., Australia and other countries treated with zero duty.
But the standards imposed byb N.Z. and Australia are a problem.
“One of the biggest obstacles in trading that we’ve seeing right now is to meet standards of N.Z. and Australia markets and international markets,” she said.
“The P.A.C.E.R Plus as we’ve discussed should provide assistance to build the supply capacities of our producers to produce products that are of their standards.”
“N.Z. and Australia will not change their standards and what is needed is for Samoa to build the capacity to meet those standards. So the agreement will come with some development standards towards developing capacity for producers.”
An example Mrs. Levy used for Samoans to export is chili.
If Samoa wanted to export chili to New Zealand and Australia, the local growers need to know demand and requirements from the countries to enter the market.
Under the agreement growers can get that capacity assistance from the countries like Australia where a dedicated person has been assigned to help them.
According to the A.C.E.O. the agreement will also have a link to regional seasonal employment scheme and an Establishment Pacific Level Mobility annual meeting. She added the meeting which is established under the agreement is an annual forum which gives the opportunity to discuss and improve the schemes.
Perhaps another concern of the agreement is that it will mean a loss of government revenue from duties of imported products.
Mrs. Levy said N.Z. and Australia will bind all products at zero percentage while the islands are still negotiating which goods will have duties eliminated.
“At the moment we are looking at about 85percent of products coming in from Australia and New Zealand with no duties,” she said.
“It won’t be immediate elimination we are looking at 25 years to have that.”
A P.A.C.E.R Plus Forum is also scheduled to be held in Savai’i on Thursday at the Apita o Pisaga Hall, Salelologa.