Duty-free impact

The Fiji Times:

Tuesday, 01 July 2014


THE Pacific can potentially lose out on a significant portion of their government revenue if they grant Australia and New Zealand duty-free access to their markets.
This could also result in the closure of infant industries and loss of employment.
Speaking at the Fiji-New Zealand Business Council annual conference in Suva on Saturday, Ministry of Industry and Trade permanent secretary Shaheen Ali said this was proposed in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus.
He said the recent decision by the Pacific Island forum leaders to include Fiji in the PACER Plus negotiations was a welcomed move.
"If Fiji were to take up the decision by the Pacific Island forum leaders to include Fiji in the PACER Plus negotiations, the country's main objective will be to ensure that PACER Plus lives up to its purpose as a development agreement, and not as an unbalanced agreement between the Pacific and developed partner," he said at the Grand Pacific Hotel.
However, schemes that include labour mobility, development co-operation and foreign direct investment to create new industries in the agreement could cushion the adverse impact.
"Labour mobility, development co-operation and investments are vital for the sustainable development of the Pacific Island countries," Mr Ali said.
Therefore, he said, New Zealand and Australia needed to make legally binding commitments on allowing labour mobility, providing the necessary technical and financial assistance, on enhancing foreign direct investments in the region, in return for the commitments the region would make for duty-free access.
"Fiji also believes that New Zealand and Australia should provide the region with treatment equal to or better than what it provides to its other trading partners such as China, Bangladesh, Singapore, or Indonesia," he said.
"We need better access, better rules of origin and greater priority for Customs and biosecurity clearance under PACER Plus."
This, he said, would enable small Pacific islands to compete on equal footing.

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