MEDIA RELEASE: Trade Justice For Pacific Island Nations

Oct 9, 2015 | Media

Pressure is on to speed up the PACER-Plus negotiations between Australia, NZ and 14 Pacific Island Countries. This is another in a line of secret trade agreements that promote the rights of corporations over people.

AFTINET, Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA, ACTU and Pacific Network for Globalisation (PANG), are holding a rally to coincide with the latest round of talks in Melbourne to call for trade justice for Pacific Islanders.

WHEN: 12:00 noon, Wednesday 7th October
WHERE: Outside the Hotel Grand Chancellor, 131 Lonsdale St, Melbourne

The PACER+ agreement will disproportionately affect Pacific Island nations. It will:

  • Give unprecedented rights to corporations. Pacific governments will face restrictions on their regulation of foreign businesses. They will not be able to regulate to keep prices low, or ensure that services are available to everyone in the community.
  • Undermine access to essential services. PACER+ will require Pacific countries to ‘list’ service sectors (including health, education, and water), allowing Australian and NZ companies to compete to provide these services in the Pacific. This will undermine access to services (especially for vulnerable people, like the unemployed or the rural poor).
  • Lead to a loss in public services like health and education. PACER+ is calling on Pacific nations to drop tariffs on imported goods. This will result in a significant loss of government revenue – up to 19% in Tonga, 18% in Vanuatu, and 12% in Samoa. This loss in revenue is more than their total health or education budgets.
  • Lead to business closures and job losses. Remoteness, small economies of scale and lack of human resources make it difficult for Pacific businesses to engage in global markets. Opening Pacific markets up to Australian and New Zealand corporations may wipe out Pacific businesses due difficulties in competing with their cheaper prices.
  • Will not lead to more investment in Pacific Countries. There is no credible evidence that links the signing of free trade agreements with the increase of foreign investment. Under PACER-Plus the Pacific will be unable to ensure that the maximum benefits of investment are passed on by requiring local content or standards of employment.

Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA, AFTINET, PANG, the ACTU are calling for:

  • The immediate suspension of the PACER-Plus negotiations until there has been informed, comprehensive dialogue with civil society to ascertain whether there is a popular mandate for such negotiations;
  • The immediate release of all negotiating texts to allow full, comprehensive and informed input from civil society;
  • Following the release of the texts a properly funded social, cultural, environmental and human rights impact assessment be undertaken to determine the impacts of any proposed outcome.
  • Respect for the rights of Pacific workers and ensuring that Pacific communities can determine their own economic future.

Quotes attributable to:

The threat of rising sea levels from climate change is more urgent than a free trade agreement, and Australia should heed the calls of Pacific Islanders to take a lead in reducing carbon emissions. – Pat Ranald, AFTINET

Australia and New Zealand have a great deal of influence in the region because of their much greater size, wealth and position as aid donors. We are concerned that any agreement will suit the interests of Australia and New Zealand at the expense of the Pacific Island countries. Any agreement must ensure Pacific-centred development that ensures rights for workers, protection of the environment and culture, and respect for human rights. – Kate Lee, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA

We have supported the Seasonal Worker Program because it is a well-regulated program where the workers that come to Australia have to be employed appropriately, they have to be paid appropriate wages, and they have to have an understanding of their rights. We would like to see that the PACER Plus negotiations continue that situation. We don’t want a lessening of the regulation around the program, to ensure that those workers who come here are not going to be subject to exploitation when they arrive. – Ged Kearney, ACTU

Media contact:
Pat Ranald, AFTINET – 0419 695 841
Kate Lee, Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA – 0420 293 083

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