BY MATTHEW VARI
AUSTRALIAN Vice Minister for Trade, Investment and Tourism Mark Coulton has said the involvement of Papua New Guinea in the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER ) Plus would give the agreement more credibility.
He said this while confirming discussions took place between both countries in the last two weeks of APEC events held in Port Moresby.
He said hopefully PNG would reconsider its stance against joining the agreement, which it cited disadvantages for its local industries under the agreement that has been negotiated since 2009.
“Australia is very keen for PNG to be involved because of their role as leaders in this region.”
“You are the largest economy in the Pacific Region and Australia would see Papua New Guinea joining PACER PLUS as would give that whole agreement much more credibility,” Coulton said.
He said discussions will continue at a government to government level.
“I am going to Fiji in another month or so and I will be raising the issue of PACE PLUS with Fiji as well.”
Papua New Guinea and Fiji, the two largest economies in the Pacific Region have refused to sign onto the PACER Plus since the comprehensive free trade agreement which was signed by other pacific island countries last year.
In his speech this year at the PNG-Australia Business Summit in Brisbane, last month, Mr Coulton indicated a welcome suggestion that PNG would reconsider its position on PACER Plus in a strong signal from the largest economy in the region’s commitment to trade liberalization.
“Australia is pleased to be supporting an independent study into the potential benefits for PNG of deeper trade engagement, including through agreements such as PACER Plus,” Coulton added.