Australia, N.Z. agree to help Pacific roll out trade deal

Australia and New Zealand have agreed on an A$25million (T$48.09m) implementation assistance once the Pacific Agreement on Closer Relations (P.A.C.E.R.) Plus agreement is enforced. 

During the recent Regional Trade Officials meetings held in Apia, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Director (Economic Growth Section Pacific Regional Branch), Matthew Harding, said the assistance package will benefit the signatories of P.A.C.E.R. Plus. 

Mr. Harding told the Samoa Observer he cannot determine when the assistance will be rolled out and they hope that they can utilise the assistance by next year once all the countries ratify the agreement.  

During one of the discussions focusing on P.A.C.E.R. Plus, signatories got to meet and discuss the agreement and the status of each country’s ratification process. 

“There are two things that we are basically trying to get out, one is getting an update on how the signatories are progressing in terms of ratifying P.A.C.E.R. Plus and the second thing is to update the member countries on what we are doing to support the Pacific Island Countries in ratifying the agreement under the readiness package,” Mr. Harding said. 

The readiness package is a development assistance provided by Australia and New Zealand to help countries prepare to ratify P.A.C.E.R. Plus. 

Under the package, Australia and New Zealand agreed to provide A$7.7 million (T$14.7m), which has been rolled out, to help countries in five areas: communication and awareness, Customs, modernization and harmonization, transparency provisions in the agreement, revenue and legislation. 

Mr. Harding was asked how Australia would benefit from P.A.C.E.R. Plus, and he responded: “Trade is mutually beneficial for those exporting and the country that is importing. We think there are a lot of opportunities for Pacific countries to benefit through increased exports and increased investments. I think that our motivation for P.A.C.E.R. Plus is not a commercial gain for Australian exports. Our exports to the countries of the P.A.C.E.R. Plus are relatively small. 

“We have significant development assistance programmes in the Pacific, I think this financial year, our development package in the Pacific is around $1.2 billion, so this to us is part of our development assistance in the region." 

“So we think P.A.C.E.R. Plus offers potential benefits for the Pacific around increasing the opportunities to develop through trade, to increase regional integration. But we acknowledge the fact that Pacific countries have needs, so we see the P.A.C.E.R. Plus as a development assistance that actually helps Pacific countries benefit from the agreement.” 

Mr. Harding said the agreement will provide opportunities for businesses in Australia and the Pacific region. 

According to Mr. Harding, like all other Pacific Islands Forum member countries, Australia would love to see Fiji and Papua New Guinea join P.A.C.E.R. Plus as well. 

“It’s been encouraging to see the progress countries have made around ratification and all the work that’s been put into it and also the fact that the assistance we’re providing is helping the move towards ratification. I think once we have the eight countries sign, the island countries in the Pacific will benefit from the agreement and that’s what we are looking forward to.” 

Australia expects to ratify the agreement by the end of this year, Mr. Harding said. 

Under the P.A.C.E.R. Plus agreement, Australia and New Zealand will reduce their duty to zero on eligible products from P.A.C.E.R. Plus countries on the first day the agreement comes into force. 

P.A.C.E.R. Plus is a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (F.T.A.) covering goods, services and investment that was signed in Nuku’alofa, Tonga last year. Australia, New Zealand and eight Pacific island countries – Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu signed the agreement.

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