PM, At ESCAP, On Climate Change, PACER Plus
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.”