Non-State Actors from across the Pacific met in Fiji on Friday to share their views on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus regional trade negotiations.
The Fourth Non-State Actors (NSAs) Dialogue meeting aimed to brief a broad range of organisations including private sector organisations, charitable and health organisations on the current status of the PACER Plus negotiations, while promoting regional dialogue among relevant stakeholders on trade and investment issues.
The PACER Plus negotiations were launched in 2009 by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders. The negotiations offer an opportunity to enhance regional trade and economic integration between Pacific Island Countries, Australia and New Zealand. Through the negotiations, member countries are determined to reverse the marginalisation that the Pacific islands face in the global economy through increased participation in international trade.
The Executive Director of the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council Frank Yourn welcomed the inclusion of Pacific NSAs in the briefing process andhe told the meeting that further engagement with the private sector will be key to a successful outcome from the negotiations.
“The trouble with trade negotiations is that there is always the fear of the unknown. In 1983 there were fears in New Zealand when they were negotiating a trade deal with Australia but now I think it’s fair to assume that New Zealand would be very glad they entered into those negotiations. I suspect there were fears in Europe when the European Union was being formed and it is now one of the strongest economic communities in the world,” Mr Yourn said.
“But the only way to allay these fears is to make sure that NGOs’ and the private sector are aware of the benefits and risks of the PACER Plus negotiations and the only way to do this is by making sure we continue to increase the number and scope of these discussions.”
The Chief Trade Adviser for the Pacific Island Countries Dr Edwini Kessie stated that through increased trade and investment, Pacific Island Countries will be able to achieve robust economic growth and sustainable development.
“Progress is being made in the PACER Plus negotiations and it is vitally important for the Pacific Island Countries to maintain dialogue with all Non-State Actors to keep them abreast of developments in the negotiations and get their inputs in order to come up with an agreement that will be meaningful and provide the private sector with opportunities to invest and engage in cross-border trade effortlessly,” Dr Kessie said.
In urging the support of NSAs for the PACER Plus negotiations, Dr Kessie further noted that:
“It is important for NSAs to realise that through increased trade and investment, Pacific Island Countries will be able to achieve robust economic growth which will create opportunities for all segments of society, particularly for the under-privileged and marginalised.”
The Fifth NSA Dialogue meeting is scheduled to take place in the last quarter of next year.
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