Trade agreement no closer to a Plus in economic cooperation relations for the Pacific
JUNE 14, this year, marked the signing ceremony of the Pacific Agreement for Closer Economic Relations (PACER-plus) Trade Agreement in Tonga. The ten countries that signed the agreement included; Australia, New Zealand (the “Plus”), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga.
That event should have been a keystone Pacific Islands ceremony, and it could have been deferred, given the torrid conditions that had prevailed in the recent “good faith” trade negotiations amongst the Forum Member countries and the conclusive meeting in April, held in Brisbane, Australia. Fiji didn’t sign and could be excused, due to its Government’s decision not to re-join the Forum and had established an alternative organisation.
In my commentary, I deliberately will not talk about the technicalities of a “Free” trade agreement, as an instrument for enhancing closer economic relations in the Pacific, but I offer a personal reflection on my disbelief and disappointment that the key principles of governance and leadership, that have been the cornerstone of the Pacific Islands Forum, for more than four decades, have been diminished and ignored. PACER-plus was to be an umbrella, multilateral trade agreement between Australia and New Zealand (combined) with the 12 Pacific Island Countries, but it has now become an agreement for trade cooperation,
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