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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6293

Senator REYNOLDS (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Home Affairs) (10:42): In short, again, the answer is yes. There are a number of forums and arrangements. The first one is with the World Trade Organization, and some Pacific island nations are already members of the World Trade Organization, as Australia is. WTO members already include Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Other Pacific island countries do not have the resources needed to participate yet in the WTO, but that is exactly one of the reasons why this PACER Plus program, and its assistance program, is so important. It allows and facilitates these nations to enter the WTO.

Regional economic integration between PACER Plus parties will lead to the deeper and broadened economic integration that is possible between WTO members and it will do so close to home. PACER Plus will cover investment, establish modern rules of origin and also facilitate regulatory cooperation. PACER Plus will actually bring some benefits to WTO membership for Pacific island countries that do not yet have the resources to do so, and that is absolutely a great thing for these nations. It is providing them with development assistance so that they can fully participate in the World Trade Organization arrangements, as well as in other agreements. PACER is a treaty, but it doesn't contain any trade provisions. PACER itself is not a trade agreement, but PACER does have a closed membership.

Another organisation, the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement, is not itself a regional economic integration agreement and it does not provide for the liberalisation of all of Australia's tariffs, so it is nonreciprocal from Australia's perspective. These rules of origin are antiquated, because they don't cover services, investment, transparency, cooperation or development assistance. Another benefit of the new agreement, PACER Plus, is that it provides greater sovereign capabilities for partners to PACER Plus.