WITH a month to go before regional governments sign a broad trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand, there are niggling doubts over whether every country will support the deal. Fiji and Papua New Guinea have signalled their reluctance to PACER Plus in its current draft form while smaller nations appear to have no problems and are content with the opportunities the agreement offers.
Solomon Islands Foreign Minister, Milner Tozaka, is the spokesperson for Pacific countries negotiating with Australia and New Zealand. He spoke to NETANI RIKA and remained confident that Forum Island Countries would benefit from PACER Plus.
ISLANDS BUSINESS: As the Lead Spokesperson for the FICs on PACER Plus, did the Parties make progress at the 14th intersessional meeting?
TOZAKA: Negotiations have concluded on most Chapters and substantive progress was made at the 14th ISM to close the gaps in the negotiating positions of the Parties in the remaining areas. The issues under the Trade in Goods Chapter are quite difficult but with flexibility and goodwill on both sides, we should be able to agree on the outstanding issues by the time of the next intersessional meeting.
ISLANDS BUSINESS: Why are the Trade in Goods negotiations difficult?
TOZAKA: This is an area where the FICs have a defensive interest. They are interested in safeguarding customs revenue and also protecting their infant industries. The challenge is how to accord flexibility to the FICs without undermining the security and predictability of market access under the Agreement.
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