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Fiji: Trade justice statement released

Fiji Broadcasting Corporation | Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trade justice statement released

Tevi says Australia and New Zealand both faced a shortfall of labour especially in their horticulture sector.

Pacific NGOs, churches and unions have released a joint statement on trade justice in the Pacific warning of the costs of a free trade deal with Australia and NZ, and urging Pacific leaders to be wary that a new seasonal workers’ scheme could be used as a bargaining chip to enter free trade negotiations.

Pacific civil society organisations meeting in Auckland last week are calling on Australia and NZ to do more to help the Pacific improve its trade opportunities without pressuring Pacific countries into a new free trade agreement.

Fei Tevi, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches says trade could help to promote development, but he says Australia and NZ had only one model of trade for the Pacific in mind.

That model, he says, of a new World Trade Organisation compatible FTA with Australia and NZ could potentially be a disaster for the Pacific.

Tevi says this joint statement is calling on our leaders to ensure that there are alternatives and that trade arrangements with Australia and NZ should be based on justice and should enhance social development in the Pacific.

Tevi says Pacific churches and civil society organisations were especially concerned that Australia looks likely to link a new labour mobility scheme to negotiations for a new FTA under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER).

Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has announced a pilot seasonal workers’ scheme, allowing workers from Pacific Island Countries to enter Australia to work in the horticulture sector, at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in Niue this week.

Tevi says Australia and NZ both faced a shortfall of labour, especially in their horticulture sectors.

The Pacific Conference of Churches, in partnership with member churches in the Pacific from concerned countries and the Uniting Church of Australia, is working to ensure there are proper accompaniments and pastoral care provided for Pacific workers entering into new labour mobility schemes.

The Pacific Civil Society Statement on Trade Justice demands that an adequate structure for trade negotiations must be established well before the Pacific Island Countries engage in any new trade negotiations with Australia and NZ, and that research and training related to a new FTA must be Pacific driven.

 source: Radio Fiji