Samoa has officially signed the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (P.A.C.E.R.) Plus agreement.
Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Samoa in Tonga last week.
Nine other countries signed the agreement namely Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu.
P.A.C.E.R. Plus is a trade and development agreement aiming to encourage economic development of Pacific Island Countries.
The Agreement will be the platform to facilitate trade and build capacity of island economies to take advantage of not only Australia and New Zealand market opportunities but also other Pacific Island parties; and globally. The trading rules are more favourable than the existing arrangements such as Australia and New Zealand’s S.P.A.R.T.E.C.A.; and the Forum Island Countries’ P.I.C.T.A.
These arrangements also did not have a development component.
Pacific Island signatories to P.A.C.E.R. Plus can now access A$7.7m to prepare for ratification including legislative drafting and customs modernisation. A further A$25,000 for each signatory is available to support national awareness programmes.
P.A.C.E.R. Plus will enter into force after eight signatories have ratified the agreement. P.A.C.E.R. Plus Parties will then benefit from A$25.5million towards the implementation of priority trade related needs including the capacity of Samoa’s producers of goods and service providers to increase supplies and utilise opportunities in overseas markets.
Existing regional programs will be enhanced including P.H.A.M.A. and labour mobility cooperation (New Zealand’s Recognised Seasonal Employment and Australia’s Seasonal Workers Programme). Australia announced at the signing ceremony that it will host the next Annual Pacific Labour Mobility meeting this year. Under the Labour Mobility Arrangement, countries that have signed the Agreement would benefit from the forum discussions on innovative ways to enhance labour mobility cooperation.
Papua New Guinea had withdrawn from the negotiations in 2016. Fiji had not tabled market access offers for the consideration of negotiating parties. The Federated States of Micronesia and Palau had informed that they were not able to attend the ceremony due to logistic challenges. Vanuatu and the Marshall Islands are continuing their internal processes. The Agreement remains open for signature for these countries.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will undertake national awareness programmes on P.A.C.E.R. Plus from July 2017.