Forum leaders fail to resolve trade dispute
THE Forum leaders meeting in Pohnpei could not resolve ongoing disputes over the PACER-Plus trade agreement. Since 2009, Forum member countries have been negotiating PACER-Plus, which is supposed to set a new trade and development relationship between Australia, New Zealand and Forum Island Countries.
Following August negotiations in New Zealand, the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA) released the draft legal text of the agreement. In their Forum communiqué, leaders called for “the conclusion of market access negotiations by the end of October 2016, and for the agreement to be signed by the end of 2016.”
However the consensus shown in the Forum’s final communiqué masks significant differences that came out during the meeting. Immediately after the leaders’ retreat on Saturday 10 September, officials released a version of the Forum communiqué. The section on PACER-Plus noted that “leaders welcomed the efforts made to finalise negotiations on all 15 chapters of the PACER-Plus text and directed trade ministers and officials to promptly address the concerns raised by Forum Island Countries in relation to the Trade in Goods text and other aspects of PACER-Plus.”
The following morning, officials met in an extraordinary meeting of the drafting committee, and the section on PACERPlus was rewritten. Instead of welcoming “efforts made to finalise negotiations”, the final version of the communiqué welcomes “the conclusion of negotiations on all 15 chapters.”
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