Today Pacific Island nations at the Pacific Island Forums have welcomed and endorsed the Pacific Plan, a blueprint for neo-colonialism in the south Pacific.
The Governments of Australia, the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and representatives of Palau and Tonga. New Caledonia, French Polynesia Timor-Leste and Tokelau endorsed the Pacific Plan which is mainly based around implementing a number of trade liberalisation agreements notably Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER). Professor Wadan Narsey, the Director of Employment and Labour Market Studies at the University of the South Pacific in Fiji has a good and brief summary of these different agreements in the Pacific Magazine.
Particularly concerning was the news that Pacific leaders have adopted a roadmap that paves the way for, Expansion of market for trade in goods under the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), and through trade arrangements with non-Forum members.
Integration of trade in services, including temporary movement of labour, into the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and the Economic Partnerships Agreement (EPA). A clear reference to WTO GATT and GATS agreements.
The recent round of talks this week has angered some NGOs concerned at the speed with which these trade agreements are taking place. Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, Lagi Toribau said in a press release at the end of the conference that “Despite the rhetoric about security in the Plan, it currently fails to deliver true security for Pacific Island communities, such as health, food and real energy security.
Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director, Barry Coates was at a meeting of civil society groups in Papua New Guinea to launch a report on Vanuatu’s accession to the World Trade Organisation called “Make Extortion History” and to seek a freeze on trade negotiations. He said on the Oxfam website that Small Pacific countries have much less to gain than most other nations from joining the WTO, due to factors like the wide dispersal of their populations and the great distances to markets. They of all countries should be allowed to try and find ways to use international trade as a means to enhance their development. Instead, they are subjected to intense pressure to open up their economies for the benefit of foreign exporters and multinationals.
Oxfam New Zealand have been watching the Pacific Plan for some time now and their report “Make Extortion History” and a number of Pacific focused reports about the effects of economic deregulation and New Zealand’s extortion in the pacific are available online.
Although NGOs wanted more time and more consultation John Howard and Helen Clark pushed through the Pacific Plan. “I believe the work that is being done to build a region-wide consensus about what the priorities are will in turn then influence national plans and give people guidance on how to take that development further,” stated Clark pushing ahead priorities that Professor Jane Kelsey has linked with a strategy of colonialism and exploitation in the South Pacific. Kelsey in her reader friendly A PEOPLE’S GUIDE TO PACER, The Implications for the Pacific Islands of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations points out that “Pacific people were excluded from debating these developments because of the secretive way that trade negotiations are conducted and the willingness of governments to buy into that anti-democratic process. Regional NGOs, especially PANG, challenged the lack of transparency and civil society input when they discovered what was happening in 2001. Their voices were ignored.”
Kelsey has also been involved in a number of other studies of recolonisation in the Pacific and her major reports concern the Economic Partnership Agreements and PACER.
Dev-Zone, an Aotearoa NGO resource Centre on international trade and development has a number of different resources available on their website concerning trade in the Pacific.
In the lead up to the Hong Kong WTO conference in December Kelsey has said in a press release for the Action, Research & Education Network of Aotearoa that, “Those of us whose governments are making these outrageous demands (through PACER, PICTA and the WTO) need to find ways to challenge their role in that process.” Kelsey further highlights the need for sustained campaigning around the WTO conference in regards to the behaviour of the WTO and the role New Zealand and Australia play in the South Pacific.
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