Australia And New Zealand Seek Pacific FTA
By Neville D’Cruz
12 June 2007
MELBOURNE, June 12 (BERNAMA) — Australia and New Zealand will begin discussions in August to strike a free trade deal with a group of Pacific island nations.
New Zealand Trade Minister Phil Goff said Australia and New Zealand wanted to fast track talks for a trade agreement with the member states of the Pacific Islands Forum.
The Pacific Islands Forum (PIP) is a group of 16 nations of which Australia is the largest.
Others members include New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and a host of tiny nations.
Goff said trade ministers would begin preliminary talks to remove Pacific trade barriers at the next PIP meeting in Vanuatu in August.
"Any movement towards a Free Trade Agreement in the Pacific will, however, be measured rather than rapid," he said in a statement.
"The process for liberalising trade would need to be phased to take into account capacity constraints. A strong focus would be on providing assistance to developing economies to build their capacity to take advantage of any new trading arrangements," he said.
Australia already had signed-on to the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) in 2001, in which some Pacific countries agreed to greater economic co-operation.
Under that deal Pacific countries were obliged to negotiate trade arrangements with Australia and New Zealand if they entered talks for a free trade agreement with any other developed nation.
This measure ensured Australia and New Zealand were not automatically disadvantaged if a developed country negotiated preferential access to Pacific markets.
Pacific countries are in talks with the European Union to have an economic partnership agreement, prompting the latest move to begin talks for a free trade agreement.