Tonga signs the PACER Plus Agreement
NUKU’ALOFA-June 15: 2:15pm(Nuku’alofa Times): Tonga and nine other countries signed the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus yesterday at Tano’a International Dateline Hotel, Nuku’alofa.
The PACER Plus is a regional free trade agreement between the member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum. The negotiations on PACER Plus began in 2009 and concluded this year in Brisbane, Australia on April 20th.
Countries that signed the agreement included Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Niue and Tonga.
Minister for Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour Hon Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa stated that the signing ceremony marks a milestone in the region’s growth and integration.
“After more than a decade and a half, we can finally celebrate the results of a very grueling process. As a member of the government, faced with many trade challenges, this ceremony promises great relief when imagining the kind of potential that it is capable of ushering in,” he said.
Hon Tu’i’onetoa stated that moving on will embark on discussions about ratification. We intend to engage in constructive conversations with all our stakeholders. After all the government did not negotiate this agreement for itself but rather for our people.
He said that trade brings diverse nations together and he hoped that the agreement will become a vital mechanism in the region that will help deepen regional integration.
New Zealand’s Minister of Trade and State Owned Enterprises Hon Todd McClay said, “PACER Plus is not about competing or about winners and losers. It is about shared prosperity and encouraging economic development in the Pacific nations. It is a win-win for all of our countries. It is a world class trade and development agreement.”
He stated PACER Plus will give signatory states greater capacity to produce goods and services which can be sold in international markets, using trade as the engine of economic growth and sustainable development.
Prime Minister Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva said the Tongan Government will commit to commence on the following steps as part of the preparation to ratify the agreement.
“Firstly, Tonga will conduct a readiness assessment of its trading with Australia, New Zealand and other PICs to ensure proper measures are put in place to determine our readiness. Secondly, the anticipated impact that such an agreement will have on our economies. Thirdly, the signing of the agreement is only the beginning of this important trade journey. Government will still have to confirm details about Labour Mobility and Development Assistance.”
He acknowledged the financial commitments of the Australian and New Zealand Government to the Pacific states which enabled the “necessary legislative changes and the modernization of customs and clearing systems to facilitate trade.”
Present in the signing Ceremony were the Trade Ministers and Officials from the region, Ministers of the Crown, Government CEO’s and guests.
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