The 5th meeting of officials on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus held in Apia, Samoa on 29 – 30 November 2012 agreed to hold further inter-sessional meetings to progress the PACER Plus negotiations.
In his opening remarks at the Meeting, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade spoke of the importance of PACER Plus to the region.
“Forum Trade Ministers at their meeting in May 2012 re-emphasised that PACER Plus should not result in a conventional free trade agreement and that it should contain provisions that would ensure sustainable growth and development of the Forum Island Countries,” said Mr Slade
The Meeting in Apia saw significant convergence on the range of issues discussed at the technical working group sessions on Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary measures, Technical Barriers to Trade, Customs Procedures and Rules of Origin, but noted that further consultations will be required on these matters.
Mr Slade drew the attention of the officials to the importance of regional labour mobility to the region.
“This is a specific area which would yield arguably the quickest and most significant benefits for many of our communities in terms of lucrative employment and elevating rural economic developments through remittances,” said Mr Slade.
“Throughout the region there are employment opportunities to be tapped whether these are in mining, teaching, fruit picking or fisheries. Temporary labour mobility would obviously need to be looked at critically and with care.”
The Meeting also discussed a roadmap to guide and progress PACER Plus discussions and promote the finalisation of the chapters and annexes of all aspects of trade in goods as a priority, including related development and economic cooperation provisions The roadmap also covers the commencement of negotiations on trade in services and investment bearing in mind their potential positive contribution to the economies of Forum Members.
Further inter-sessional meetings on PACER Plus will be held in April 2013 in Port Vila, Vanuatu to discuss the additional issues related to trade in goods, the product specific rules of origin, development cooperation, labour mobility, and commencement of initial discussions on trade in services and investment among relevant officials.
Forum Island Countries at the meeting noted the need for continued support by Australia and New Zealand for PACER Plus negotiations, including support for engagement in the new priority areas of services and investment. Forum Island Counties noted the continued importance of making progress in Labour mobility and development cooperation as the new areas of negotiations are progressed.
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