Director of External Trade, Joe Pakoa Lui, is optimistic that ratifying PACER Plus Agreement will elevate trade now that the government is considering production and export increase . Photo: Kizzy Kalsakau

The Director of External Trade, Joe Pakoa Lui, said he is optimistic that the PACER Plus Agreement will be ratified by Vanuatu as public consultation continues and held recently with parliamentarian committees.

“We believe the government will endorse for Vanuatu to ratify this agreement to elevate trade and development activities,” he said.

Ratifying the agreement is an opportunity to increase trade by enabling access to duty-free markets in New Zealand and Australia now that the government is eyeing production increase and will also support trade related areas losing out on revenue due to this current COVID-19 crisis, he said.

“Once the government ratifies the agreement, we (Vanuatu) can increase trade and source funds for institutional development.

“Different governments have different views of the agreement and how it could be implemented. One is of the issues being raised by few governments is kava restrictions into Australia.

“But we are happy that Australia is considering a pilot on the commercial importation of kava from the Pacific, including Vanuatu end of this year.

“The government is also seeking visa waiver from Australia and New Zealand and developing laboratories for import and export testing.”

According to Director Lui, Australia and New Zealand have agreed to provide an amount of AUD $25.5 to be used to implement PACER Plus agreement as soon as it comes into force.

“A work program on comprising of the component targets have been developed however, the funds will be allocated depending on the country’s priority needs such as increasing trade.”

Director Lui said there will be an increased in economic development once Vanuatu begun investing more in trade.

According to Lui, public consultations on the cost and benefits of Vanuatu joining PACER Plus with Australia, NZ and other Pacific Forum Countries have been carried out since the negotiation phase from 2009 till 2017 and are ongoing.

While works on the technical level are being done, it requires sufficient political will for ratification and implementation, he said.

The consultation with parliamentarian committees was aimed at getting views and hearing challenges of getting the agreement ratified, said Director Lui.

A document on the PACER Plus Agreement ratification will be submitted to the Council of Ministers (COM) for approval, he conveyed.

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