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Liberalised trade for a more prosperous Pacific region.



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Warren Truss Minister for Trade Deputy Leader of The Nationals

M E D I A R E L E A S E

T r a d e C r e a t e s J o b s

Paul Chamberlin - Senior Media Adviser 02 6277 7420 0419 233 989 paul.chamberlin@dfat.gov.au www.trademinister.gov.au

DFAT07/052WT 14 June 2007

LIBERALISED TRADE FOR A MORE PROSPEROUS PACIFIC REGION

Australia and New Zealand are seeking preliminary consultations for the negotiation of a free trade agreement with Pacific Island countries, the Australian Government Minister for Trade, Warren Truss, said today.

“The suggested consultations at the Pacific Islands Forum Trade Ministers Meeting in Vanuatu in August will represent a first step towards defining the timing and scope of negotiations for a new ‘PACER Plus’ agreement,” Mr Truss said.

“Australia signed the 2001 Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) which provides for closer economic cooperation between 16 countries of the region.”

Australia and New Zealand have provided duty-free access for inbound Pacific Islands’ goods for almost 30 years, enabling annual trade with the Pacific to grow to more than $5.2 billion.

Under the 2001 agreement, Pacific countries were obliged to negotiate trade arrangements with Australia and New Zealand if they entered free trade agreement discussions with another developed country, so that Australia and New Zealand were not disadvantaged. Pacific nations are presently in talks with the European Union over an economic partnership.

The new so-called ‘PACER Plus’ will foster economic opportunities and competitiveness for countries in the region and help Pacific Island countries secure the benefits from liberalisation and integration while operating within WTO rules.

It will also ensure that Australia and New Zealand maintain market access to the Pacific Island countries that are likely to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union by December this year.

“The economic gains from ‘PACER Plus’ will be firmly geared towards the sustainable development of Pacific Island countries and their gradual and progressive integration into the world economy.”

“Australia and New Zealand recognise the capacity constraints facing Pacific Island countries and their other trade negotiation preoccupations at this time. For that reason we are receptive to a phased and careful approach to consultations and subsequent negotiations.”

“We are committed to a cooperative, friendly consultation and negotiation process to liberalise regional trade,” Mr Truss said.