Trade Minister signals PNG to pull out of PACER Plus talks
PNG Trade Minister speaks out about trade imbalance between island countries and New Zealand and Australia, and is opposed to the PACER Plus scheme for a Pacific common market.
The Papua New Guinea Trade Minister Richard Maru says the trade imbalance between Australia and New Zealand and the island countries is so one-sided, it is not funny.
Mr Maru says for this reason there is no merit in the island nations being in a trading agreement with Australia and New Zealand.
He told Don Wiseman he will advise his government that PNG pull out of the trade talks on the PACER Plus scheme, which is designed to usher in a common market in goods and services.
RICHARD MARU: I cannot see any national interest can be served by entering into a trading arrangement that includes the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand. There's no point in even going down the path for starters.
DON WISEMAN: Although, of course, the critical thing about PACER Plus is that, as well as a trade in goods, it's a trade in services. And that would open up the Australian and New Zealand markets to more Papua New Guineans, wouldn't it?
RM: Yeah, but what has Australia and New Zealand done about giving us the capacity to trade goods with you? What were they talking about, for that matter? Until we have the goods to trade with you there's not even a point in going down this path.
DW: What's the alternative for PNG, then, do you think?
RM: My alternative is simple - I will just focus on the MSG countries and build our trading relationship with them.
DW: And you'd ignore the other island countries in the Pacific?
RM: We've had PICTA for a while - you haven't even got it started yet. Let's focus on the smaller grouping. Let's get the current duty-free trade arrangements done, let's get it embedded down, let's look at labour mobility, let's look at services at this level. And once we've got it right, after a few years we could talk about the whole of the Pacific. But until I can trade on equal terms, on equal volumes, on equal value-based goods with Australia and New Zealand, i'm not going to waste my time. It has to be about mutual trading with each other. It's not about a one-sided trading relationship anymore. Until such time we build up the capacity to trade dollar for dollar with you, we're not interested.
DW: The MSG would appear to be going along in leaps and bounds over these last couple of years. So a common market for the MSG countries is probably not that far away. Is that how you see it?
RM: We are saying, let's make the MSG work first. Let's get it embedded down, let's get it mobile within a couple of years. We started with a political relationship, now we've moved to a trading relationship. We started with the duty-free market excess. Over the next few years all of us will be able to trade duty-free goods with each other. Now, this year, we are also going down the path of looking at mobility among the MSG countries. Lets get that working first. Once we've got it embedded down we should look at the trading of services. Once we've got some experience in running a trading bloc, after we've had an evaluation of that - and I mean a couple of years down the track - we could start looking at the whole of the Pacific, if there is merit to do so. There is not merit to think about Australia and New Zealand when it's about them only and them only and them only. That can no longer be the case. That is not an acceptable situation and I see no merit in moving with PACER Plus.
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