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Call to cut trade agreements

PACIFIC leaders have been told the cost of doing business in the islands will be greatly reduced if there are fewer trade agreements in the region.

The advice came from Dr Edwini Kessie when he addressed Pacific leaders who are members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) bloc of states that met in Port Moresby in the lead up to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders summit there last month.

Dr Kessie is the Chief Trade Adviser for the Pacific Islands, overseeing the Forum member nations’ free trade agreement negotiations on PACER Plus with Australia and New Zealand.

As a region, Dr Kessie said the Pacific has too many trade agreements that are overlapping and costly. “The FICs (Forum Island Countries) cannot afford to have multiple and overlapping trade agreements.

Not only do they increase the cost of doing business in the region, which already is among the highest in the world, they also deter foreign direct investment.

“There needs to be a consolidation of the trade agreements in the region in the near future. Increasingly, we are witnessing preferential trade negotiations that would create mega-regional trading blocs, including the TPP, TTIP and RCEP.

“While the combined population of around 40 million of PACER Plus Parties pales into insignificance when compared with the population of these mega-regional trading blocs, it would provide enormous opportunities for FIC firms to become international players as they grow and strengthen their productive capacities and operations through increased trade in the region, particularly with Australia and New Zealand.

“It will also provide them with an opportunity to participate in regional and global value chains which offer routes to new export markets and expansion of business opportunities.

“A dynamic PACER Plus Agreement will increase business activity within countries and in the region generating highly paid jobs and enhancing living standards.

“The Pacific region has enormous potential and now is the time to work to make this a reality. Concluding and implementing an ambitious PACER Plus Agreement will be an unmistakable signal that the FICs are committed to playing a greater role in the global economy and enhancing the living standards of their people.”

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