12 September 2016
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser, will be undertaking a series of consultations this week as part of its awareness campaign on the PACER Plus, with the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Afioga Lautafi Selafi Purcell officially opening the PACER Plus forum for Upolu this afternoon at the TATTE Convention Centre, Sogi.
The PACER (Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations) Plus is the trade agreement currently being negotiated between the Forum Island Countries, Australia and New Zealand.
The objectives of the agreement are to stimulate economic growth and job creation by reducing trade costs of exporting goods and services; an opportunity to attract foreign investment; an opportunity to access cheaper goods for consumers and local producers; and access to improvements of the seasonal worker programs in Australia and New Zealand.
The outreach programmes planned for the week aim to provide an opportunity to engage stakeholders in the PACER Plus dialogue and raise awareness of the proposed trade agreement.
The objective of the forum today is to raise national awareness of the proposed agreement; provide an opportunity to engage in dialogue with stakeholders and the community; and also to receive views from the participants.
A similar PACER Plus Forum is scheduled for Savaii later this week.
The forum today was attended by representatives from Government Ministries and Organisations, members of the diplomatic corp, members of non-governmental organisations and the private sector.
Afioga Lautafi in his address reiterated on the importance of this event marking the start of outreach programmes as we work towards finalizing the PACER Plus Agreement.
“The economy is a key priority sector in the Strategy for the Development of Samoa, recognising the importance of re-invigorating agriculture, providing an enabling business environment and continuing efforts in revitalizing exports,” said Lautafi.
“Trade on its own, cannot single-handedly deliver all this but it is undoubtedly an instrumental vehicle to drive Samoa’s economic growth and development.
“Samoa has continued to run a merchandise trade deficit since the 1980s with imports far exceeding the volume of our exports. The Pacific continues to be Samoa’s main market for exports accounting for approximately 72% in 2015. The Pacific has also been traditionally the main source of imports for Samoa but now competes with imports from Asia.
“In this interdependent world that we live in, it is necessary for Samoa to deepen its economic and trade links with countries in the Pacific region. PACER Plus is expected to be the platform to facilitate regional trade aimed at ensuring the greater participation of the Forum Island Countries in regional and international trade. PACER Plus will create a regional market of 40 million people.”
Lautafi said PACER Plus can provide opportunities for Samoa to enhance its capacity to trade including meeting the biosecurity and technical regulations of key trading partners; and improved customs procedures.
He also said the promotion of trade in services, facilitation of the movement of persons across borders to provide services temporarily; the improvements to the seasonal work programmes of Australia and New Zealand; all supported by development assistance are further opportunities that can be facilitated under the PACER Plus.
As leader of Samoa’s delegation to the PACER Plus meeting in Christchurch last month, Lautafi said trade negotiations are complex and technical.
“The Forum this afternoon is part of the Government’s national outreach programmes for PACER Plus.
Lautafi also acknowledged the presence of Dr. Edwini Kessie and staff of the OCTA (Office of the Chief Trade Advisor) for the dedicated support to Samoa in the negotiations, and also acknowledged the presence of the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia.
“I thank your respective Governments, on behalf of the Government of Samoa, for the support provided to Samoa during the PACER Plus process. I thank also all our development partners present here this afternoon for your continuous cooperation in promoting and strengthening Samoa’s trade and economic framework.”
The programme included presentations by Dr. Kessie of OCTA, New Zealand High Commissioner HE Jackie Frizelle and Australian High Commissioner HE Sue Langford.
There were also sessions with questions and answers and the panel included CEOs of Government Ministries.