Push for development, not FTA, at Pacific Islands Forum

Dynamic Export (Australia) | Monday 3 August 2009

Push for development, not FTA, at Pacific Islands Forum

by Adeline Teoh

Global recession, climate change and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) are expected to dominate the Pacific Islands Forum, a four-day program scheduled to begin tomorrow in Cairns, Australia. Leaders are also likely to address aid and democracy in Fiji.

Non-government organisations are pushing for further negotiations under PACER Plus instead of a standard free trade agreement (FTA), as developmental goals will be as important as trade goals for many Pacific Island nations.

A report by Oxfam showed a standard FTA with Australia and New Zealand would see Tonga lose 19 percent of government income, Vanuatu 18 percent, Kiribati 15 percent and Samoa 12 percent.

The organisation feared Australia and New Zealand would bully the smaller islands into accepting unfavourable conditions before they were ready.

A report by the Pacific Network on Globalisation supported Oxfam’s view, giving evidence that Australia and New Zealand had tried to push Pacific countries to launch PACER Plus four years ahead of schedule.

source: AIE