PACER Plus negotiations not ‘final’: Vanuatu undecided, wants more for workers

Unconvinced: market vendors in Port Vila see no benefit for Vanuatu from PacerPlus. Photo: PANG

Unconvinced: market vendors in Port Vila see no benefit for Vanuatu from PACER Plus. Photo: PANG

PACER Plus, the proposed trade agreement between Pacific Islands Forum island countries and Australia and New Zealand will need to have its final terms established in October, the ministers and officials attending the ‘final’ meeting last week in Christchurch were told by Australia and NZ. Raising standards of living, creating jobs and encouraging sustainable development within our region are aspects of the plan which were made better known to trade officials last week. A package worth over Vt 600 million is involved. The agreement is described as a ‘landmark’ trade and development deal. New Zealand Trade Minister McClay said in a statement that all negotiations must be completed in October and the agreement signed in December. (Radio Vanuatu News)

Vanuatu, however, wants more worker representation in the discussions. And Papua New Guinea has indicated its withdrawal from the scheme (the tweet above from PNG MP and Governor of Oro Province Gary Juffa sums up dissenting views there). Fiji was still expressing reservations as last week’s ‘final’ discussion conference opened in New Zealand. Some eight years of planning and negotiation have already been spent on the agreement and Friday was intended to be the very last day of discussions. The government system as employed in Vanuatu enables Ministers to take decisions on such matters without all MPs having full acquaintance with the text of the agreement. It is this which the Vanuatu Council of Ministers says it wants to change with the proposed Constitutional changes. (Daily Post)

The Vanuatu strategies and quality standards for kava for export were outlined by Agriculture Minister Seremaiah when the standards were launched last Friday. And the Minister made it clear that a shortage of kava in the country has resulted from increasing exports a well as increased local consumption. An Industry Working Group (the IWG) has brought together professionals, farmers, exporters, the private sector and scientists, and Minister Seremaiah pointed out that it is clear that kava generates and circulates more money in the economy than any other activity: “more than tourism, cattle, copra and even cocoa, and most of this money goes directly to benefit the grassroot farmers in the islands”, the Minister said.