25 Jul 2008

Pacific NGO calls for halt in negotiation on regional free trade in services

3:15 pm on 25 July 2008

The NGO, the Pacific Network on Globalisation, or PANG, has called for a moratorium on negotiations on Pacific countries opening service sectors to competition from businesses from across the region.

Plans to expand earlier agreements on free trade were part of discussions when Pacific trade ministers met this week in Rarotonga.

PANG's coordinator, Maureen Penjueli, says it is not a strategy for savvy economic policy making especially when there are already serious concerns over access to services and their provision in most Pacific countries.

"Trade officials have already told us privately that they don't understand the implications sufficiently to conclude negotiations at this stage. We believe that two things need to be done. One a social impact assessment must be done immediately and governments must go back and relook at the implications of trade in services on their regulations. Unless this is done Governments are not in a position to continue negotiations."

Mrs Penjueli says Australia and New Zealand will be very aggressive about including services in future free trade negotiations.