Niue hosts first in-person PACER Plus Joint Committee Meeting

The sixth Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, otherwise commonly known as PACER Plus Joint Committee Meeting is currently being held here in Niue. This is their first in-person meeting since the pandemic. 

PACER Plus is a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Pacific Island countries, New Zealand and Australia. 

PACER Plus includes trade in goods, trade in services and investment as well as a focus on labour mobility. 

The PACER Plus agreement was signed in 2017 and entered into force in December of 2020. Niue is one of eight Pacific countries including the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.  

The opening ceremony for the sixth PACER Plus Joint Committee meeting took place this morning at the Scenic Matavai conference room, where Acting Premier and Finance and Infrastructure Minister Hon. Crossley Tatui gave his opening address followed by the Head of the PACER Plus Implementation Unit Mr Roy Lagolago. 

BCN News spoke with Mr Lagolago this morning who shared that this first in-person meeting is really important in bringing all the officials together for the first time to talk and discuss matters they can achieve under PACER Plus since it was ratified in 2020. 

He described it as a “good basis to have really good talanoa which is our Pacific way.”

“I think a lot of the discussions this week will be around activities that will be implemented in the next financial year. Also some of the activities that we have implemented in the past and some of those activities that I have mentioned earlier in our opening remarks is around automation.”

“Automating some of the processes and systems to allow businesses and the private sector to be able to get their goods, clear their goods, import and use the technology that we have nowadays to speed up some of that process.”

Mr Lagolago says that one of the major discussions this week will be on the implementation of monitoring and evaluation. 

“I think it’s going to be the first of its kind, monitoring and evaluation for a multilateral trade agreement. That’s never been done before and so we’re going to tackle that task.” 

PACER Plus also has a side arrangement focused on labour mobility in the Pacific. 

Last week, BCN News was able to speak with PACER Plus experts from Samoa who have been on the island for the past few weeks to prepare for the meeting to be held this week. 

PACER Plus adviser and labour mobility specialist Dr. Alisi Holani says that one major aspect they have identified in Niue, a cross-cutting development constraint, is the labour shortage. 

“We talked to different sectors including the health sector and we found that there are critical service needs that require labour from other Pacific island countries and the Niuean government has actually requested us to look at how we can facilitate the movement of workers from other Pacific countries to meet the labour shortages here in Niue.”

Dr Alisi says that they are now looking at an immediate resolution to address the critical service sector such as health. 

“We are also looking at a sustainable approach that can address the labour shortage going forward, given that labour is a key critical component to sustainable economic development here on Niue.”

Mr Lagolago was also able to share his thoughts on labour mobility in the Pacific and the issue of labour shortage here in Niue and Cook Islands. 

“I think when people think about labour mobility, it’s always the RSE schemes to Australia or New Zealand and the various programmes but countries like Cook Islands and Niue, you need the labour.”

“We have to take a different approach and so that is why Dr Alisi has been in-country for a couple of weeks to do an assessment and look at opportunities on how we can support Niue with its labour shortages. That assessment will hopefully bring about some answers and some support that we can provide to people of Niue.”

The PACER Plus joint committee meeting will conclude this Thursday 1st June and the seven representatives from the member countries including Cook Islands, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu will depart the island next week.

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