4 Aug 2008

Pacific NGO claims Australian officials are trying to bully island countries into trade deals

7:28 pm on 4 August 2008

A Pacific NGO has accused Australia of bullying Island countries as it tries to fast track the revamped Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations or PACER PLUS.

The Pacific Network on Globalisation, or PANG, says the Australian delegation used last month's trade ministers' meeting in Rarotonga to try and advance the deal.

PANG's coordinator Maureen Penjueli says the region is not ready to negotiate such deals with Australia, when it is still trying to settle the Economic Partnership Agreements demanded by the European Union.

She also says the region wants to negotiate on the so called PACER PLUS deals as a unit, but Australia is pushing for bilateral settlements, offering incentives such as the proposed labour mobility scheme.

"What's emerged from those meetings is that Australia is willing to offer that to those countries in order for them to buy into PACER PLUS, to get them to commit to a formal negotiating position on PACER PLUS. Those are some of the incentives that are emerging and I think if you look at some of the media reports coming out of the region you will see that some countries are already in discussions with Australia with respect to that."

Maureen Penjueli