18 Jun 2009

Civil society organisations say Pacific countries must not be forced into trade deals

11:27 am on 18 June 2009

A group of Australian and New Zealand civil society organisations has called for New Zealand and Australia not to force Pacific Island countries into trade deals they say could be disastrous for them.

In a statement to the Pacific Islands Forum Trade Ministers who meet in Apia from today, NGOs and church groups say any trade deal has to be shown to benefit the island countries.

Don Wiseman has more.

"New Zealand and Australia are expected to push for formal negotiations on the enhanced version of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, or PACER-PLUS, to begin in August. They envisage a common market in goods and services but Adam Wolfenden of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network says there hasn't been sufficient time to assess the scheme; 'There hasn't been enough time for research and the Pacific doesn't actually have the capacity at the moment to enter meaningfully into any of these negotiations.' Mr Wolfenden says both countries are also unwilling to properly fund an advisory office. The New Zealand Trade Minister Tim Groser says he views this meeting as less a trade negotiation and all about the economic development of the island countries, but the NGOs say they want evidence of this, including time taken to hear the concerns of the people in the region most affected by the scheme."