LEADERS have given their blessings on the near completion of negotiations for a free trade agreement between Forum island countries on the one hand and Australia and New Zealand on the other.
Forum chair and Prime Minister of PNG, Peter O’Neill said negotiations for PACER Plus have been going well. He commended Australia’s offer for increased job opportunities for Pacific island workers and they have urged New Zealand to increase the qouta for island workers too.
This comes as NGOs in the Pacific stepped up their calls for the suspension of PACER Plus, saying the agreed legal text favours Australia and New Zealand more than it benefits island countries.
They said a leaked copy of the ‘Development Assistance and Economic Cooperation’ chapter of the agreement confirms their fear that Pacific islands have been short-changed yet again.
“This chapter was seen by Pacific countries as one of the key areas of benefit under PACER-Plus yet this chapter confirms that the Pacific are having to forgo their ability to determine their economic future in exchange for voluntary commitments from Australia and New Zealand to help implement the agreement plus some extra bilateral aid” commented Adam Wolfenden, Campaigner from the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).
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