PACER Plus Pacific trade deal has fishhooks

New Zealand appears to have pushed for a trade deal that could undermine Pacific Island countries’ ability to support their local economies and restrict their right to regulate in their own interests, the Green Party said today.

“New Zealand and Australia are being accused of pushing a trade deal to advance their own commercial interests at the expense of Pacific Islands’ national interests,” Green Party trade spokesperson Barry Coates said.

“The fact that the Pacific’s two biggest economies, Fiji and Papua New Guinea, have opted out is a warning sign that Australia and New Zealand have demanded too many concessions. Their absence from PACER Plus will undermine the existing Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and Pacific regionalism.

“We should be building fair trade relationships that create sustainable jobs in the Pacific, not undermining Pacific governments’ abilities to foster new industries and support local economic development.

“Restricting Pacific governments’ right to regulate in their own interests became an issue when they found their ability to cut down on imports of unhealthy foods was restricted by trade rules and pressure from New Zealand. Local food production will be further undermined by cheap and unhealthy imports, undermining traditional farmers and adding to the crisis of Non-Communicable Diseases in the Pacific.

“Promising relatively small amounts of aid money with one hand while stripping Pacific governments of their right to support local businesses and regulate in their people’s best interests isn’t fair and isn’t right.

“Cutting border tariffs in small Pacific nations deprives those governments of crucial revenue they could use for schools and hospitals, and trade deals like this one often encourage governments to privatise and outsource public services.

“Pacific trade also needs to be seen in the context of the growing crisis of climate change. There is nothing that I am aware of in the PACER Plus deal that will help the Pacific deal with rising sea levels and increasingly severe cyclones,” Mr Coates said.

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