SPECIAL FORUM TRADE MINISTERS MEETING
26 August 2016
Addington Raceway and Events Centre Christchurch, New Zealand
PIFS (16) SFTMM
“Leveraging PACER Plus as an instrument of economic growth and sustainable development of the Forum Island Countries”
The Special Forum Trade Ministers Meeting (FTMM) was held in Christchurch, New Zealand on 26 August 2016. The Premier of Niue and Ministers from Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were present. The Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Papua New Guinea were represented by a representative of their Trade Minister. Also present at the meeting were representatives from the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. The Meeting was chaired by the Honourable Todd McClay, the Minister of Trade for New Zealand. A list of participants is attached as Annex 1.
2. The objective of the Meeting was to consider the recommendations from the Special Forum Trade Officials Meeting on the outstanding issues in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus negotiations, as well as the recommendations from the Special Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM) and agree to the modalities for the conclusion of the PACER Plus agreement. The theme was “Leveraging PACER Plus as an instrument of economic growth and sustainable development of the Forum Island Countries”
3. The Chair, in his opening statement, acknowledged the high spirit of cooperation amongst the Forum Members and their efforts in progressing the PACER Plus negotiations. The Chair thanked the Trade Officials, the OCTA and the Forum Secretariat for advancing the negotiations and urged the Ministers to carefully consider the remaining outstanding issues for the conclusion of PACER Plus. He encouraged Members to accelerate completion of a high quality trade and investment agreement as mandated by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in 2015.
4. In her introductory remarks, the Deputy Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat, Ms. Andie Fong Toy, highlighted the importance of the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the PACER Plus in driving regionalism efforts. She urged Members to monitor the impacts of the
Agreement and ensure that the region capitalise on the positive dimensions and address any negative implications.
5. In considering the outstanding issues in the PACER Plus negotiations, Ministers provided directions on the conclusion of the negotiations of the Trade in Goods Chapter, focusing on the resolution of the outstanding issues relating to the Provisional Measures, Most Favored Nation and Industry Development. Ministers made decisions on progressing the market access negotiations and the process for concluding PACER Plus in 2016. The agreed package of proposals on the PACER Plus Trade in Goods text is in Annex 2.
6. Ministers recalled the Forum Leaders’ commitment to PACER Plus as an instrument for promoting regional integration in the Pacific and assisting the Forum Island Countries (FICs) to achieve robust economic growth and sustainable development.
7. Ministers also recalled that at the 2015 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Papua New Guinea, Leaders requested Ministers responsible for international trade to ensure that their negotiators exercise the necessary flexibility in the negotiations to facilitate the rapid conclusion of a high quality trade and investment agreement, at the latest, by June 2016.
8. Ministers welcomed the substantive progress made in PACER Plus negotiations and noted that they can positively respond to Forum Leaders at their meeting in 2016, given that all outstanding legal text issues have been resolved, and a timetable to conclude the market access negotiations by end October 2016 has been agreed for PACER Plus to be signed by end 2016.
9. Ministers also welcomed the Outcomes of the 2016 Special PLMAM, noting that the PLMAM would be established under the Labour Mobility Arrangement negotiated alongside PACER Plus.
10. Ministers acknowledged Australia’s and New Zealand’s commitment to fund PLMAMs as part of the implementation of PACER Plus.
11. Ministers welcomed the conclusion of all fifteen chapters of the PACER Plus text, including the conclusion of the Chapter on Rules of Origin and Initial Provisions (including the preamble) recently adopted ad referenda by Officials, and the Chapter on Trade in Goods concluded at the Special FTMM.
12. Ministers directed completion of the legal verification exercise of the PACER Plus text by November 2016.
13. In recalling the footnote in the implementing arrangement, Ministers noted that Australia and New Zealand will provide appropriate resources for the implementation of PACER Plus with respect to the development and economic cooperation chapter of the text, and also for the broader trade related assistance needs of the FICs.
14. Ministers endorsed the conclusions and recommendations contained in the Sustainable Impact Assessment prepared by the OCTA in consultation with relevant stakeholders; and agreed to use the Assessment as a basis for their ongoing engagement with stakeholders on the possible economic, social and environmental impacts of trade liberalisation under PACER Plus. Ministers also welcomed the ongoing and future efforts that participating countries make to assess the potential impacts of PACER Plus.
15. Ministers agreed that Pacific Islands Forum Leaders be informed that Members would work towards finalising the PACER Plus market access negotiations with a view to completing them by end October 2016. The PACER Plus agreement is expected to be signed by end 2016.
16. Ministers welcomed the announcement by Australia and New Zealand of a joint A$7.7 million Readiness Package to be available to signatories between signature and entry into force, including customs, revenue, legislative and communications support to address policy and administrative implications of PACER Plus commitments during the ratification process.
17. The Chair thanked Ministers, Trade Officials, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, OCTA and its staff for their efforts in bringing the PACER Plus towards conclusion.
18. Ministers thanked the Chair for his exceptional facilitation of the meeting, and the Government of New Zealand and tangata whenua for the excellent hosting arrangements.
26 August 2016
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat