PACER Plus to support sustainable economic development for Niue
26 May 2023
ALOFI, Niue – The regional governance meeting for the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus) will be held in Alofi, Niue on 30 May - 1 June 2023.
The PACER Plus Agreement is a comprehensive free trade agreement (FTA) between the Pacific Island Countries and Australia and New Zealand, covering trade in goods, trade in services, investment, and a side-arrangement on labour mobility. The Agreement was signed in 2017 and entered into force in December 2020. Niue is one of eight Pacific countries that have ratified the Agreement. Other Pacific Parties are the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
PACER Plus is a unique FTA in the sense that its central focus is to support regional development and assist Pacific Parties to participate more actively in, and benefit from, international trade. The Agreement is in fact one of few FTAs to have a Development and Economic Cooperation Work Programme which provides development assistance to Pacific Parties to strengthen their capacity to benefit from regional and international trade.
Mr. Frank Sioneholo, the Economics and Planning Director and the PACER Plus national focal point for Niue, said: "For Niue, international trade and economic integration is fundamental to overcoming the challenges inherent to our smallness and remoteness from key markets. PACER Plus provides a framework for increased regional economic integration and at the same time provides assistance needed to enable us to benefit from trade."
In an interview with one of the advisers from the PACER Plus Implementation Unit, Dr. Alisi Kautoke Holani, she stated: "Increasing the benefits of PACER Plus for Niue requires targeted support for areas where Niue has comparative advantage."
She added: "From Niue's GDP data over the past years, the services sector is clearly the major contributor to economic growth and tourism is shown to have the greatest economic potential. The PACER Plus Agreement can play a critical role in the development of your services sector as it is the only Pacific FTA in force with details commitments on trade in services and can therefore support the creation of an enabling environment that can increase foreign direct investment, economy-wide productivity, connectivity, and competitiveness of other exports including agricultural products such as your vanilla and honey." She also highlighted that the transition and rapid advancement in the digital economy and digital trade provides many opportunities for small and remote island countries such as Niue.
"Services are central to digital trade, and we are now seeing that a broad range of services can now be supplied online, which presents significant opportunities for our small and remote island countries. This was particularly evident during COVID-19. The PACER Plus Agreement can facilitate the provision of enabling policies and strategies for digital supply and e-commerce," said Dr Holani.
The PACER Plus Agreement also covers trade in goods and seeks to increase merchandise trade between Parties. This is achieved through improved customs procedures, improved rules of origin, use of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures to protect plant, animal and human life and health. This allows for the increase trade, address barriers to trade that may arise from technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures (TBT). These provisions provide opportunities to increase Niue's agricultural and fisheries exports and support Niuean businesses to take advantage of duty-free access to not only Australia and New Zealand but also the other eight Pacific Parties.
Labour shortages are also a recognised development constraint that cuts across all sectors in Niue. Dr. Holani further stated that this is another area where the PACER Plus can provide benefits to Niue.
"The PACER Plus Arrangement on Labour Mobility provides a framework to facilitate labour mobility from other Pacific PACER Plus Parties to address labour shortages in Participant labour receiving countries such as Niue," she said.
Over the past week, the PACER Plus Implementation Unit, together with the Australian National University, were in Niue upon the request of the Niuean government, to conduct stakeholder consultations to later inform the development of a strategy to facilitate the movement of workers from other Pacific PACER Plus Parties to meet labour shortages in key sectors.
"The scoping visit was a success, and we are looking at ways where we can address immediate labour shortages in critical service sectors such as health, while at the same time consider a strategy that can sustainably address labour shortages in Niue in a manner that meets required labour standards and ensures the protection of workers coming in," said Dr. Holani.
The PACER Plus Implementation Unit, based in Samoa, is a regional organisation established to administer the Agreement's Development and Economic Cooperation Work Programme and support Parties in the implementation of the Agreement.
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