PM, At ESCAP, On Cli­mate Change, PACER Plus

Fiji Sun - - Fiji Today - NEMANI DELAIBATIKI nemani.delaibatiki@fi­jisun.com.fj

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama has re­it­er­ated our po­si­tion on cli­mate change and PACER Plus. He was speak­ing in Bangkok at the Lead­ers Di­a­logue on Re­gional Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and In­te­gra­tion. This was at the 72nd session of the United Na­tions Eco­nomic and So­cial Com­mis­sion for Asia and the Pa­cific (UNESCAP).

Ex­pe­ri­ence from TC Win­ston

Mr Bain­i­marama said: “We are al­ready work­ing closely to­gether as a re­gion to con­front the is­sue of cli­mate change. Be­fore the World Cli­mate Sum­mit in Paris last Novem­ber, the mem­bers of the Pa­cific Is­lands De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum – not only na­tions but rep­re­sen­ta­tives of civil so­ci­ety and the pri­vate sec­tor in the re­gion - gath­ered in the Fi­jian cap­i­tal, Suva, and came up with a joint po­si­tion to take to Paris.

“We called it the Suva Dec­la­ra­tion. And in it, we asked the global com­mu­nity to em­brace cuts in car­bon emis­sions to cap global warm­ing at one-point-five de­grees Cel­sius over pre-in­dus­trial lev­els. “One by one we all made im­pas­sioned speeches in Paris. “Three of our num­ber – Kiri­bati, Tu­valu and the Mar­shall Is­lands – face be­ing sub­merged al­to­gether by the ris­ing sea lev­els on cur­rent pro­jec­tions. Be­cause they are low-ly­ing coral atolls, whereas Fiji is among the Pa­cific na­tions that en­joy the rel­a­tive pro­tec­tion of be­ing mainly vol­canic moun­tain­ous is­lands.

Al­though we have still had to re­lo­cate three coastal vil­lages so far and dozens more are ear­marked to be re­lo­cated in the next few years.

“This is a mat­ter of sur­vival for Pa­cific Is­lan­ders. We didn’t cause the global warm­ing that has pro­duced this cri­sis in the first place. Our car­bon foot­prints are neg­li­gi­ble – in Fiji’s case 0.004 per cent of to­tal global emis­sions.”

Fiji – PACER Plus Mr Bain­marama said: “This leads me to the is­sue of the Pa­cific Agree­ment for Closer Eco­nomic Re­la­tions (PACER) Plus with Aus­tralia and New Zealand. “You ask a di­rect ques­tion: What are the pluses Fiji would like to see out of PACER? Let me give you a di­rect an­swer: There sim­ply aren’t enough pluses in it for Fiji yet for us to want to sign it. And let me tell you why. “Aus­tralia and New Zealand are de­vel­oped coun­tries whose economies dom­i­nate the re­gion, in­clud­ing ac­cess to our own mar­ket. We are de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and rel­a­tively vul­ner­a­ble, not only to such things as cli­mate change and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters but be­cause of a range of eco­nomic and so­cial dis­ad­van­tages. Trade is sup­posed to help our economies grow. And we want PACER Plus to have more ‘pluses’ in terms of its de­vel­op­men­tal as­pects than is cur­rently on of­fer.

“Fiji clearly sees the need for PACER Plus or any other trade agree­ment for that mat­ter to be a de­vel­op­ment agree­ment. This es­sen­tially means: „se­cur­ing long-term im­proved mar­ket ac­cess for goods, ser­vices and labour; „preserving do­mes­tic pol­icy space, espe­cially the right to reg­u­late for de­vel­op­ment pur­poses; and „en­sur­ing con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion from our tra­di­tional de­vel­op­ment part­ners who will be par­ties to the PACER Plus agree­ment.

“As such, we want a PACER Plus that pro­vides bind­ing com­mit­ments on labour mo­bil­ity and de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion, to­gether with mar­ket ac­cess.

“In its cur­rent form - de­spite it be­ing an in­te­gral part of the PACER Plus Agree­ment - this is not legally bind­ing.

“In ad­di­tion, al­though labour mo­bil­ity has been dis­cussed and pro­vided for in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, it was rel­e­gated to an ar­range­ment which is out­side the Agree­ment and is not legally bind­ing. “Labour mo­bil­ity is one of the most tan­gi­ble ar­eas in which re­gional in­te­gra­tion has brought ben­e­fits to Pa­cific Is­lan­ders. “The Re­gional Sea­sonal Em­ploy­ers scheme – in which Fi­jians have be­gun to ac­cess short term em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Aus­tralian and New Zealand - has shown prom­ise. But this also needs to be ex­panded un­der a long last­ing mech­a­nism that pro­vides se­cu­rity and as­sures sus­tain­able ben­e­fits for the Pa­cific is­lands.

“Fur­ther­more, the Pa­cific par­ties can­not give away their pol­icy space: espe­cially the right to reg­u­late; and man­age fis­cal and mone­tary poli­cies, par­tic­u­larly tax­a­tion mea­sures aimed at achiev­ing set de­vel­op­ment ob­jec­tives. “The PACER Plus chap­ters on In­vest­ment and Ser­vices, for ex­am­ple, could po­ten­tially con­strain our do­mes­tic pol­icy space to the ex­tent that we might in fu­ture have se­ri­ous dif­fi­cul­ties.

“We are still de­vel­op­ing and th­ese de­vel­oped coun­tries man­aged to at­tain the level they en­joy to­day be­cause gov­ern­ments had a crit­i­cal role to play in how they shape and im­ple­ment pol­icy for de­vel­op­ment pur­poses. “PACER Plus was not man­dated to be ne­go­ti­ated solely to ben­e­fit the more com­pet­i­tive play­ers. Rather, it is a means to deepen re­gional in­te­gra­tion, cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for growth, cre­ate a strong re­gional eco­nomic bloc and ul­ti­mately lead to the mean­ing­ful so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment of our re­spec­tive coun­tries. That means op­por­tu­ni­ties for or­di­nary cit­i­zens as well. “Th­ese fun­da­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tions, to­gether with pro­tec­tion of sov­er­eign pol­icy bot­tom lines, are im­per­a­tive in any trade ne­go­ti­a­tion. Fiji will con­tinue to ne­go­ti­ate in or­der to seek a de­vel­op­ment ori­en­tated out­come of PACER Plus. Be­cause we very much be­lieve that it has the po­ten­tial be a model for how trade agree­ments can be the in­stru­ment of de­vel­op­ment and re­silience build­ing in the Pa­cific. But right now, there are not enough pluses for us to com­mit to PACER Plus.”

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