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November 2010 update on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus negotiations

At their meeting in August 2010, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders welcomed progress made on PACER Plus negotiations. Leaders also agreed to refer the issue of participation of Fiji in the PACER Plus negotiations to the Ministerial Contact Group on Fiji for further consideration. Leaders further agreed for the Ministerial Contact Group to consider possible modalities for engaging Fiji in PACER Plus negotiations and to circulate their findings to Leaders for consideration before the next Forum.

A PACER Plus workshop on rules of origin and customs procedures was held in Tonga on 1-3 September 2010. Trade and customs officials from Forum Member countries participated in this workshop, as well as the Chief Trade Adviser and representatives from the Oceania Customs Organisation and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. The main objectives of the workshop were to build the capacity of regional customs and trade officials with regard to rules of origin and customs procedure issues relevant to the PACER Plus negotiations.

The first of an annual Non-State Actors Dialogue on PACER Plus was held in Solomon Islands on 18 October 2010. The Pacific Islands Association of Non-government Organisations and the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation worked with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to facilitate the Dialogue, which brought together senior trade officials from Forum Member countries with a diverse group of national and regional non-state actors. Presenters at the meeting included the Public Institute of Public Policy, the Solomon Islands Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Growers Federation of Tonga, the Australia-Pacific Islands Business Council, the Samoa Umbrella of NGOs and Oxfam Australia. Other national and regional non-state actors participating on the meeting included Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA), the Development Services Exchange, Transparency Solomon Islands, Solomon Islands Women in Business Association, the Solomon Islands National Council of Women, Solomon Islands Tropical Production, Association of Solomon Islands Manufacturers, the Small and Medium Enterprise Council of Solomon Islands, Solomon Islands Non-State Actors Programme and Oxfam Solomon Islands.

The Dialogue, chaired by Mr Kaliopate Tavola, discussed the shared goal of ensuring that PACER Plus increased economic development and prosperity in Pacific island countries. The Dialogue noted the need for PACER Plus to respond to the different development needs of each country, and to ensure that any agreement was implemented in a cautious and staged manner that provided national governments with the policy space needed to nurture local industry and employment.

Further information about the Dialogue: Non-State Actors Dialogue on PACER Plus, 18 October, Solomon Islands

A meeting of PACER Plus trade officials was held in Solomon Islands on 19 and 20 October 2010. In addition to Pacific Islands Forum member countries' trade officials, participants in the meeting included the Chief Trade Adviser and representatives of the Oceania Customs Organisation. Participants in the meeting discussed most of the priority negotiating issues previously agreed by Forum Trade Ministers in October 2009, namely: rules of origin, customs procedures, other trade facilitation issues, and regional labour mobility. Participants also received an update on the establishment of the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser, which officially commenced operations in Port Vila on 29 March 2010.

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