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Thursday, 13 September 2018
Page: 6289

Senator REYNOLDS (Western AustraliaAssistant Minister for Home Affairs) (10:27): Contrary to the assertion by the Greens senators in this place, all 11 countries have entered into this agreement as equals, because they realise that there are benefits to their own nations. They have done so in close consultation with our trade officials at minister-to-minister level. A number of countries have been very clear, and we've consulted with them, on the development support they need so they can engage as equal partners in international trade relationships.

PACER Plus is a landmark agreement that covers goods, services and investment. It removes barriers to trade, including tariffs, increasing the flow of goods and investment in the region, generating growth and jobs, and raising living standards in all of its signatory countries. Ultimately what's in it for the nations who have already come on board is the fact that they realise that this is a pathway to greater industry, greater exposure to international markets and greater job opportunities and income for their families, which, as I said previously, is at the heart of the Australian government white paper's proposal for the Pacific, which I know you are fully aware of, Senator Fierravanti-Wells.

PACER Plus is unique. It is both a trade and a development assistance agreement. Australia and New Zealand have committed $33 million in development assistance to help Pacific island countries implement their commitments and strengthen their capacity to trade. That, as all of us in this place except the Greens realise, is a good thing for all the nations involved. There are a number of specific proposals. It provides a vehicle for Pacific island nations to liberalise and reform their economies, a number of which are very small, and also to reverse their economic marginalisation at a pace they are comfortable with. As Senator Fierravanti-Wells noted earlier on, this process takes us through to the 2050s, so it is up to the nations involved as to the time frame and how we do that. Each of the nations has to be comfortable with a range of flexibilities that recognise their own special challenges.

The PACER Plus will also help to facilitate trade in the Pacific island countries. That means it will enhance transparency and harmonisation and reduce the cost of trading and doing business for each one of these Pacific island nations. It also establishes in the development corporation chapter a framework for mutually agreeing with Australia and New Zealand the appropriate support to assist the Pacific island countries develop their capacity to trade. It also provides a modern template for engaging in international trade. This is important for Pacific island countries, as it is for every other country in the world that is not a member of the World Trade Organization, and it is also very important for the Pacific island countries as they move forward and have a greater capacity to negotiate other free trade agreements elsewhere. Probably the fifth major benefit is that, under labour mobility arrangements, it actually expands the opportunity for labour mobility opportunities amongst Pacific island countries, and that includes Australia.