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Treaties Committee critiques PACER-Plus

By Nic Maclellan

The Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCT) has issued its final report on the PACER-Plus trade agreement. Although the committee recommends that Parliament should ratify PACER-Plus, the report is a telling critique of the treaty, noting: “the absence of Papua New Guinea and Fiji from PACER-Plus significantly diminishes the utility of the agreement for Australian business.”

For more than twenty years, successive Australian governments have promoted trade agreements with Forum island countries as a central element of regional economic integration as well as poverty alleviation. According to the 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, Australia’s approach to the region is based on “helping to integrate Pacific countries into the Australian and New Zealand economies and our security institutions, [as] essential to the long-term stability and economic prospects of the Pacific.”

After nearly two decades of preparation and seven years of negotiations, PACER-Plus arrived in June 2017 with a dull thud. As Matthew Dornan noted at the time on the Devpolicy Blog, most post-signing analysis of the deal highlighted the lack of ambition, the failure to lock in labor market access in the binding treaty and the disproportionate benefits for Australia and New Zealand. The Office of the Chief Trade Advisor (OCTA) tried to highlight the benefits of the treaty for Forum island countries, but many commentators were dismissive, with headlines such as “Disappointment and lost opportunity” and “Not much to celebrate.”

Former Forum Secretary General Sir Noel Levi, who guided the initial drafting of PICTA and PACER in the late 1990s, was scathing over the outcome of “PACER Minus.” He decried the lack of leadership by his successors at the Forum Secretariat, for not addressing objections raised by …read more

From:: Development Policy Centre – DEVPOLICY Blog

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