Pacific Civil Society calls for no deal on PACER-Plus

Published: Wed 24 Aug 2016 12:10 PM
Pacific Civil Society calls for no deal on PACER-Plus
Pacific Trade Ministers have today been presented with a civil society petition calling for them to make no conclusion of the PACER-Plus talks until all the texts have been released and there has been a fully-funded, independent and comprehensive social impact assessment.
The petition, signed by over 55 organisations representing the significant sectoral groups including feminists, environmentalists, trade unions, community groups, churches, customary landowners, LGBTQI, health groups, disability groups, youth movements, academics and more than 200 individuals from across the Pacific calls for greater scrutiny of the current PACER-Plus deal.
“The support behind this petition challenges the purported mandate our Trade Ministers have from their own people and their parliaments for the conclusion of PACER-Plus in the Pacific. We've heard lofty promises about the economic benefits but there are major concerns from people about the costs to health, women, access to food, and the sovereign rights of Pacific countries. These concerns are yet to be addressed,” commented Adam Wolfenden, Campaigner for the Pacific Network on Globalisation.
The petition argues that the push to conclude talks at this Ministerial means that the “deadline is driving the process”. Further, the signatories “endorse the recently released social impact assessment “Defending Pacific Ways of Life: A Social Impact Assessment of PACER-Plus” and call on our governments to heed its findings and not conclude PACER-Plus as they further explore the human, environmental and social impacts in their respective countries.”
The Defending Pacific Ways of Life report was authored by a number of leading academics from Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand and found significant concerns about the impact of PACER-Plus on health outcomes, the right to food, the right to regulate, gender, and the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor's own impact assessment.
“There have been enough chapters negotiated now to have a good sense about the impact that PACER-Plus will have on the region. Undertaking an assessment after negotiations have been concluded leaves little room to re-open the agreement to make changes,” said Mr Wolfenden.
“The ongoing negotiations for the Trade in Goods chapter shows an agreement with major revenue loss for the Pacific, weak safeguards and protections for infant industries, and Australia pushing their self interest to ensure that it always has the best access to Pacific markets. The Pacific taking on these burdens is not a development agreement by anyones definition,” stated Mr Wolfenden.
Earlier this month Papua New Guinea withdrew from PACER-Plus saying it “does not have any benefits” to them under the current text and that they are “not interested” in the negotiations, raising significant doubts about proceeding with negotiations without the largest Pacific economic powerhouse.
“Papua New Guinea's withdrawal was a big statement against the 'development' nature of PACER-Plus and is coupled with Fiji's ongoing concerns about their domestic industries and the right to regulate. This lack of interest from the two biggest economies in the Pacific really shows that this is not a successful agreement,” added Mr Wolfenden.
Trade Ministers from the Pacific Islands Forum will be meeting in Christchurch on August 26th with the expectation that the text of any agreement will be finalised. If finalised a signing ceremony of PACER-Plus is expected in November or December without perhaps the largest two Pacific island economies – PNG and Fiji.

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