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The Pacific Island Countries (PICs) are taking on disproportionate binding commitments in exchange for false promises of benefits from the regional free trade deal known as PACER-Plus according to new analysis released today from the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).
The release of the analysis and accompanying briefs examines the technicalities and promises of the two Arrangements included in PACER-Plus – The Arrangement on Labour Mobility and the Development and Economic Cooperation Arrangement.
“PACER-Plus and these Arrangements offer little by way of actual benefit for the Pacific. Australia and New Zealand have offered nothing binding and what is included amounts merely to no extra aid money and an annual meeting, all in exchange for binding market access to the Pacific. So bad was the deal that an Australian Parliamentary Committee recommended that some of the development assistance go towards monitoring the anticipated negative impacts of the deal on government revenue, health and gender equality,” commented Adam Wolfenden, PANG's Trade Justice Campaigner.
According to the analysis, despite the Pacific Island Countries wanting a binding outcome for Pacific workers into Australia and New Zealand, the Arrangement on Labour Mobility includes only the provision for an annual meeting on labour mobility issues.
“More communication on labour mobility is a welcome outcome but the lack of mandated union voices at the annual meeting is a concern given the histories of exploitation in seasonal labour schemes. Further, the recent changes to seasonal or temporary work in Australia are a clear manifestation of the fears regarding PACER-Plus – that the Pacific takes on binding commitments that open up their economies to Australian and New Zealand companies and any promises on labour mobility evaporate,” stated Wolfenden.
The Development and Economic Cooperation Arrangement covers the provision of a Work Programme related to PACER-Plus and broader funding for trade and investment assistance. The funding is currently promised for only 5 years, can be vetoed by Australia and New Zealand and will come from existing aid budgets according to the analysis released.
“With the money already coming from existing aid budgets, Australia and New Zealand are effectively getting PACER-Plus for free. They also retain complete control over what the Pacific determines it needs for its development. The Work Programme offers some benefits for the PICs but also aims to ensure that the legally binding commitments made by the PICs are implemented,” added Wolfenden.
“The New Zealand Prime Minister, who is in Fiji today, should explain why their view of development for the region involves securing their interests whilst only offering token promises for the Pacific Islands” continued Wolfenden.
Currently only New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and Kiribati have completed their ratification of PACER-Plus. Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have all not signed onto the deal.
“The development assistance and labour mobility components were meant to support PICs development yet we can see that this will not be the case with what is included in PACER-Plus. The PICs are being asked to take the binding commitments in exchange for promises that offer little” concluded Wolfenden.
Pacific Islands News Association
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