20 Jun 2007

Different approach to free trade agreement in region needed says Oxfam

2:17 pm on 20 June 2007

There is a call for a different approach to be taken over a proposal for a free trade agreement between New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific Islands.

The New Zealand trade minister, Phil Goff, says he's asked the Forum to look at how progress can be made on removing trade barriers in the region.

But, the NGO Oxfam says Pacific Island countries could be at a disadvantage as their markets are not as well developed.

Oxfam's Barry Coates says New Zealand should be much more focussed on development in the Pacific because it has long term benefits rather than trying to pry open even further small markets.

"Free trade agreements between partners at very uneven levels of development means usually that the countries that are at a lower level of development find it really difficult to compete and often end up with their markets taken over by imports."

Mr Coates says a massive trade imbalance already exists between New Zealand and the Pacific.

Last year, New Zealand's exports to the Pacific amounted to 1 billion NZ dollars while its imports from the Pacific were only 135 million dollars.