PICTA trade in services negotiations progress

[Suva, Fiji] Forum Island Countries (FICs) are progressing the conclusion of the trade in services arrangement under the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA).

The sixth round of PICTA trade in services negotiations concluded last month in Nadi, Fiji, with a focus on advancing discussions on the PICTA trade in services negotiations and the proposed PICTA Temporary Movement of Natural Persons (TMNP) scheme.

Pacific ACP Leaders at their meeting in Auckland, earlier this month, agreed that FICs organise necessary consultations, followed by domestic approvals of PICTA trade in services text and associated schedules of commitments with the objective of concluding the PICTA trade in services negotiations and finalising the arrangements for Leaders’ consideration at their meeting in 2012.

Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement

PICTA seeks to strengthen, expand and diversify trade between FICs through the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade within the region.

Seven countries have already put in place necessary domestic arrangements to accord preferential import duties to goods originating from parties to PICTA. These parties are Cook Islands, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

PICTA trade in services negotiations

Further to Trade Ministers’ decision to broaden PICTA to also include trade in services, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat has since been working with FICs to develop modalities for the negotiation of PICTA trade in services Agreement. The Trade Ministers launched the PICTA trade is services negotiations in March 2008.

“PICTA trade in services and Temporary Movement of Natural Persons arrangements will create an enabling environment for freer trade in services, and for improved mobility of labour throughout the region,” explained the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade.

He further emphasised the need for FICs to progress trade integration as reaffirmed by Forum Leaders at their Meeting in Auckland earlier this month.

At the sixth round of PICTA trade in services negotiations, FICs focused on bilateral negotiations and revising draft text for the PICTA trade in services and Temporary Movement of Natural Persons arrangements.

Secretary General Slade encouraged FICs to progress PICTA trade in services negotiations by committing to opening up the identified common key sectors of interest. These include tourism, transportation and business services, and additional sectors as required to ensure meaningful arrangements that address each country’s development needs.

PICTA Temporary Movement of Natural Persons

The sixth round of negotiations was preceded by the PICTA Temporary Movement of Natural Persons workshop attended by senior trade, labour, immigration, education and legal officials. The objective of the workshop was to provide participants with detailed information on the proposed scheme including the implications for the implementing agencies.

“PICTA Temporary Movement of Natural Persons issues will require broader consultation and more time for the countries to agree to a joint framework of cooperation for the mobility of skilled and semi-skilled professionals,” said the Secretary General.

“In line with the Leaders’ decision to conclude the PICTA trade in services negotiations, Countries considered progressing through a phased approach so that the PICTA trade in services agreement can be finalized soon while the negotiations of the PICTA TMNP arrangement continue”, Tuiloma Slade added.

Leaders directed the Secretariat to work closely with FICs to assist them in their implementation of PICTA, and engagement in the PICTA trade in services and Temporary Movement of Natural Persons negotiations.

Private sector essential

The Secretary General also emphasised that the central role of the private sector in driving sustainable economic development cannot be ignored.

“Governments need to foster an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and allows businesses to thrive,” said Mr Slade. He urged governments to consult widely on the commitments that the countries plan to make under PICTA trade in services arrangements before convening for the next round of negotiations.

“Countries have committed to continue their bilateral negotiations and extensive consultations with the key stakeholders to progress the PICTA trade in services arrangement. A Social Impact Assessment of the PICTA trade in services and TMNP arrangement will be commissioned shortly to assist the countries in their consultations”, the Secretary General stated.

(Ends)

For media enquiries, contact Ms Mue Bentley Fisher, Communications Officer at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat on telephone +679 331 2600 or email: mueb@forumsec.org.fj.

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