Over 30 groups and 170 individuals from the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand have called for a halt to the signing of the regional trade deal, known as PACER-Plus.
The signing is set to take place this morning (Wednesday June 14, 2017) in Nuku’alofa-Tonga. Australia, New Zealand and 11 Forum Island countries are scheduled to attend.
Parties have urged the signing be delayed until impacts of the deal have been properly assessed while also for proper consultation among the Pacific people.
“These voices see PACER-Plus as a deal that will deliver the most economic benefits to Australia and New Zealand and limit in a legally binding way, how Pacific communities can determine their own form of development,” commented Mr Adam Wolfenden, campaigner for the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).
Papua New Guinea walked away from the negotiations in 2016 hailing the deal a ‘net loss’ for PNG. Fiji harboured concerns about the lack of adequate infant industry protections and the details of the ‘Most-Favoured Nation’ clause.
The Council of Ministers in Vanuatu decided that they will not participate in the signing ceremony and will await further assessments of the impacts before making a decision to sign.
Effectively, showing lack of support by three of the four Melanesian Spearhead (MSG) countries.
“What is really being asked for is time to for all people to understand what PACER-Plus is going to mean for them. The rush to wrap up PACER-Plus is happening at the expense of the ability for people to be involved in the process”, added Mr Wolfenden.
This petition follows the recent presentation of a petition to the Tongan Prime Minister, Akilisi Pohiva by Tongan groups calling for a deferral in any decision to sign, and renegotiation of clauses they are unhappy with.
“The signing ceremony is coming almost eight years to the day that Trade Ministers were pressured into agreeing the launch negotiations in Samoa in 2009. These negotiations were always started with Australia and New Zealand’s interests at their heart and sadly they finish how they began”, concluded Mr Wolfenden.