Officials from Papua New Guinea say they are considering withdrawing from free trade negotiations between Pacific Island countries and Australia and New Zealand.
PNG’s Trade Minister, Richard Maru, on Monday told a meeting of trade ministers from the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) that his country was considering withdrawing from Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) negotiations.
“My country is not interested in PACER Plus, our focus is the MSG Trade Agreement,” Minister Maru told a press conference convened at the end of the meeting at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa in Nadi.
Fifteen countries are involved in the PACER negotiations, with the aim of helping Pacific Islands Forum countries benefit from enhanced regional trade and economic integration.
Asked whether PNG would withdraw immediately from PACER Plus negotiation talks, Mr. Maru said the matter is under serious review by PNG’s government.
“Our feelings at the moment is that PACER Plus would be one-sided in favor of Australia and New Zealand,” he said.
“We are frustrated with them. We can’t export our taro there, they won’t accept our greens.
“There’s nothing to be gained from a trade agreement at the moment. We cannot justify the huge amount of resources we expend on such negotiations. They are a complete waste of time.”
Asked for Fiji’s position on PNG’s stand, the country’s Minister for Trade and Attorney General, Mr. Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, said Fiji sees a lot of merit in PNG’s position.
He said Melanesian countries need to consolidate their trading capacities first before they look at free trade pacts with their bigger neighbors.
Source: The Pacific Islands Report