The Office of the Chief Trade Adviser organised a workshop on the PACER Plus negotiations for Non State Actors (NSAs) in Nadi, Fiji on 12-13 May 2014, with the financial support of the European Union within the framework of the Pacific Integration Technical Assistance Project (PITAP), which is coordinated by the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat. The workshop aimed at briefing the NSAs on the current status of the negotiations and promoting regional dialogue among relevant stakeholders on trade and investment issues. The workshop was attended by over fifty business leaders from Forum Island Countries (FICs) and Australia, leading personalities from the NGO community in the Pacific as well as senior representatives of regional organisations, including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Pacific Trade and Invest.
In his keynote address, the Deputy Head of the European Delegation for the Pacific, Mr. Johnny Engell-Hansen, noted that the FICs faced a myriad of challenges in the global economy, including small populations and markets, lack of economies of scale and infrastructural problems which increased the cost of doing business in the Pacific and affected the competitiveness of their exports. He underlined the commitment of the European Union to support regional integration in the Pacific as a way of addressing some of these challenges and enabling the FICs to alleviate poverty and attain sustainable growth and development.
In his introductory remarks, the Chief Trade Adviser of the Forum Island Countries, Dr Edwini Kessie, said that progress was being made in the PACER Plus negotiations and that it was important for the Parties to come up with an agreement that would be meaningful to the private sector and provide them with opportunities to invest and engage in cross-border trade effortlessly within the region. He noted that through increased trade and investment, the FICs would be able to achieve robust economic growth creating opportunities for all segments of society, particularly for the under-privileged and minorities.
The participants welcomed the initiative of the OCTA to organise the workshop to enhance their understanding of the PACER Plus negotiating issues and thanked the European Union for its generous financial support. They acknowledged the potential of PACER Plus and the Economic Partnership Agreement to provide a platform for the FICs to enhance their engagement in international trade, but stressed that the unique circumstances of the FICs had to be taken into account in the design of these trade agreements. The Participants exchanged views and experiences about national consultations on PACER Plus and discussed how these consultations could be strengthened in the future to ensure full and effective participation by all stakeholders, including the private sector and civil society.
PACER Plus is expected to lead to an agreement that would assist the Pacific Island Countries to increase and diversify their exports and promote closer trade and economic relations between them, Australia and New Zealand, and facilitate their greater participation in international trade.
Dr. Edwini Kessie
Chief Trade Adviser
Office of the Chief Trade Adviser
Air Vanuatu House, Port Vila, Vanuatu
P.O. Box 561
Tel/Fax: (678) 25003
For more information visit: www.octapic.org