Pacific News Minute: 14 Pacific Countries Agree On A New Free Trade Deal

Apr 25, 2017

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As we look back to President Trump’s first hundred days in office this week, one campaign promise he did keep was to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal negotiated under President Obama. However, a different free trade agreement is about to be signed in the Pacific. We have details from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

It’s called PACER plus. PACER stands for Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations. And after eight years of negotiations, agreement was reached in Brisbane last week.

The deal is designed to further integrate the already close ties between Pacific island nations and the much larger economies of Australia and New Zealand. The island nations can already send exports to Australia and New Zealand duty free; Pacer Plus provides for phased elimination of tariffs on imports.

Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo told reporters that would help grow sustainable economies and boost trade. New Zealand’s Todd McLay pointed out that the deal includes 38 million dollars in development aid, spread over five years.

Critics argue that the new aid represents just a fraction of the current level provided by Wellington and Canberra, that the trade arrangements favor Australia and New Zealand, and that the elimination of tariffs will deprive small island governments of badly needed revenue.

14 Countries will gather in Tonga to sign Pacer Plus on June 16. Noticeably absent, Papua New Guinea and Fiji, though Fiji’s government said it did not pull out of the talks, it had been excluded. Trade Minister Faiyaz Kona told the Fiji Sun that he sent a letter asking for last week’s meeting to be postponed but received no reply and was shocked to hear that the agreement had been reached anyway.