|Oxfam Campaigners in Wellington demonstrate the unfair balance in trade negotations between Europe and the Pacific. Photo: Oxfam/CY Leow|
Trade could help reduce hardship in the Pacific, but international trade rules are stacked in favour of rich countries.
Pacific governments are being asked to open up their markets to goods and services from overseas yet history shows that opening up national markets too quickly or in the wrong way can increase hardship and poverty.
If New Zealand is to be a good neighbour, it must use aid and trade policies to fight poverty in the Pacific.
Pacific under pressure
Trade negotiations between New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific officially launched.
At the August 2009 Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Cairns, the region’s leaders, including Prime Minister John Key, announced that trade negotiations would be undertaken between Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific “forthwith”. This was despite a statement to the media only two days earlier by Pacific Leaders (excluding John Key and Australia’s Kevin Rudd) that the Pacific countries were not ready to launch negotiations.
Fresh from tough negotiations with the European Union, Pacific officials and ministers have been cautious about agreeing to negotiations with the region’s “Big Brothers”. However, the announcement at the Forum of new trade negotiations under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), dubbed “PACER Plus” means that the pressure only increases.
Oxfam Executive Director Barry Coates commented that “This is deeply disappointing. Rushing into an agreement before the Pacific has had enough time to undertake research and to consult will risk a bad deal. There is no off-the-shelf model for an agreement on economic cooperation that could help the Pacific’s economic development. This decision risks taking the wrong route by rushing into a free trade agreement that would undermine the Pacific economies.”
New Zealand government calling for submissions on PACER Plus
Australia and New Zealand are the Pacific Island Countries’ largest trading partners so any agreement will have a large impact on their small and often fragile economies. It is vital that PACER-plus discussions do more than simply focus on a free trade agreement that further opens Pacific economies to the import of Australian and New Zealand goods and services. Instead, Australia and New Zealand must work with their Pacific neighbours to use trade as a tool for alleviating poverty.
Oxfam New Zealand has been engaging with the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as NZAID to ensure that New Zealand's negotiating positions support development rather than pursue commercial interests. However, the wider public now gets an opportunity as the government is seeking submissions on how it should conduct negotiations with our Pacific neighbours. It is important that our negotiators understand that New Zealanders want a fair and development-friendly agreement that will be of real benefit to the Pacific and so we are urging as many people as possible to make their voices heard. Although the official deadline for submissions was 16 November 2009, the government is still accepting submissions.
- Take action: write a submission to the New Zealand government
- Read the Pacific Trade Justice statement in full (PDF file)
- Read Oxfam New Zealand’s submission on PACER Plus (PDF 1,156 KB)
Negotiations with the European Union
Europe is negotiating new trade deals with African, Caribbean, and 14 Pacific (ACP) countries. A true partnership in trade could radically transform the lives of one-third of all people living in poverty, providing farmers and small businesses with sustainable incomes and workers with decent jobs. But Europe is choosing power politics over partnership. The deals currently on the table could stop Pacific governments from making laws that help Pacific companies and peoples, help protect the environment and local resources, or guarantee essential basic services such as healthcare, education and water provision.
Despite massive pressure, many ACP countries are holding out for a fair deal. Europe needs to rethink, and agree to change course. Ultimately, it is in its own interests to do so.
- "Liberalisation … is it really providing a level playing field for small nations and bigger nations? We cannot see that. Actually this trade liberalisation is making small countries dance to a tune by bigger countries. Powerful countries." Ephraim Kalsakau, Vanuatu National Workers’ Union Trade
- Did you know? The EU's GDP is 1400 times larger than that of the Pacific Islands - talk about David and Goliath.
- Read the report PACER Plus and its Alternatives: Oxfam outlines the options for trade negotiations between the Pacific and Australia and New Zealand, and calls for a new approach. (PDF 472 KB)
- Read the report prepared by the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG): Making Waves: Opportunities for reclaiming development in the Pacific -- August 2008 (PDF 475 KB)
- Partnership or Powerplay? Oxfam calls for rethink of unfair EU trade deals before it's too late -- April 2008 (1MB)
- Video: listen to Ha Joon Chang - a renowned Cambridge economist - explaining why EPAs are potentially dangerous for developing countries.
- Oxfam was one of few civil society participants to the Pacific Trade Ministerial held in Vanuatu in August 2007. Read Oxfam's summary of the meeting which was dominated by discussions on the way forward on Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Commission (EC).
- Read Oxfam's briefing paper: Weighing the Options (PDF File 145kb) which provides Pacific governments, civil society and members of the public with analysis aimed at clarifying some of the key decisions that need to be taken on the way forward in the region’s Economic Partnership Agreement negotiations with the European Commission.
- Read Oxfam New Zealand's evaluation of the Pacific EPA negotiations -- January 2007 (PDF File 58kb)
- Offering a Realistic Alternative: The EU’s obligation to provide alternatives to the Economic Partnership Agreements -- October 2006 (PDF FIle 41kb)
- ONZ submission on Samoa's WTO accession (PDF File 59kb)
- Tonga: Blood from a Stone -- December 2005 (PDF File 63kb)