Vanuatu Daily News Digest | PANG on Trade Justice for island states


06th of October, 2015.

Civil society groups from Australia and the Pacific are concerned about the rush to conclude talks on the regional free trade agreement known as PACER-Plus.

The Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET), Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Friends of the Earth, and Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) are holding a rally to coincide with the latest round of talks in Melbourne to call for trade justice for Pacific Islanders.

Kate Lee, Executive Officer of Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA commented that “Australia and New Zealand have a great deal of influence in the region because of their much greater size, wealth and position as aid donors. We are concerned that any agreement will suit the interests of Australia and New Zealand at the expense of the Pacific Island countries. Any agreement must ensure Pacific-centred development that ensures rights for workers, protection of the environment and culture, and respect for human rights.”

PACER-Plus talks were controversially launched in 2009 and are considered the most important trade agreement that the Pacific will negotiate in a decade. The talks are unique in their inclusion of Labour Mobility and Development Assistance in the negotiations.

Ged Kearney, the President of the ACTU added that “we have supported the Seasonal Worker Program because it is a well-regulated program where the workers that come to Australia have to be employed appropriately, they have to be paid appropriate wages, and they have to have an understanding of their rights. We would like to see that the PACER Plus negotiations continue that situation. We don’t want a lessening of the regulation around the program, to ensure that those workers who come here are not going to be subject to exploitation when they arrive.”

Pat Ranald from the AFTINET stated that “the threat of rising sea levels from climate change is more urgent than a free trade agreement, and Australia should heed the calls of Pacific Islanders to take a lead in reducing carbon emissions.”

There are concerns for what the outcome of PACER-Plus will mean for Pacific livelihoods, government revenue, access to essential services and ability to determine their own development.

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, AFTINET, the Pacific Network for Globalisation (PANG), Friends of the Earth, and the ACTU are calling for the immediate suspension of the negotiations, the release of the negotiating texts to undertake a human rights impact assessment and respect for the rights of Pacific workers.

The rally will take place at 12:00 noon, Wednesday 7th October, outside the Hotel Grand Chancellor 131 Lonsdale St, Melbourne.