10 Aug 2009

Australia PM claims a consensus in Pacific over trade deal negotiations

7:57 pm on 10 August 2009

Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, says there is a consensus among Pacific countries to start negotiations on a Pacific-wide trade agreement as soon as possible.

The formal launch of negotiations on the Pacific agreement on closer economic relations, or Pacer Plus, was expected at last week's Pacific Islands Forum in Australia but has been stalled

There has been criticism that Canberra and Wellington are bullying smaller countries to sign up to negotiations.

But Kevin Rudd says countries are convinced of the development challenge they face, and that it won't be completely solved through development assistance.

"I think everyone's on the bus. Where the bus takes us will be separate question, but we are all on the bus and we are dealing with the technical challenges of how to maintain low level contact with the military regime in Fiji on the way through these negotiations."

Kevin Rudd