The Department of External Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vanuatu in conjunction with the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser conducted national consultations on PACER Plus at the Holiday Inn Hotel on 21 September 2016. The consultation was convened to discuss issues relating to the proposed free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and Forum Island Countries, commonly referred to as the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus). The consultation was attended by a broad range of stakeholders from government departments and agencies, the private sector and civil society, as well as representatives from the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser.
In his opening remarks, the Minister for Climate Change, and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Honourable Ham Lini Vanuroroa noted that PACER Plus is envisioned as a development-oriented Agreement with the objective of facilitating economic growth and sustainable development in the Parties, particularly the FICs. Minister Vanurorao reiterated the commitment of Vanuatu to concluding a mutually beneficial agreement, noting that Forum Leaders have endorsed the conclusion of negotiations on the fifteen chapters. He called on Australia and New Zealand to announce an Aid for Trade package which reflects the comprehensive nature of the Agreement and the new opportunities expected to arise from it.
The Office of the Chief Trade Adviser and officials from the Department of External Trade made presentations on various aspects of the negotiations, including Trade in Services, Temporary Movement of Natural Persons, Investment, Trade in Goods, Rules of Origin, as well as the Sustainable Impact Assessment study conducted by the OCTA. It was noted that, according to preliminary analysis based on best available information at the time of the study, the economic and social impacts are likely to be positive, while the environmental impacts are likely to be negative. However, the Agreement permitted countries to adopt appropriate mitigation measures.
Mr Sumbue Antas, Director, Department of External Trade, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade underscored that the Vanuatu economy was predominantly services-based and was expected to derive considerable benefits from PACER Plus.
The sessions were interactive with participants posing incisive questions regarding the likely impacts of the Agreement. Participants were provided with detailed responses addressing their concerns with respect to the likely adverse impact of the Agreement and other issues in the negotiations.