Hon. Milner Tozaka, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade MP for North Vella La Vella. Photo credit: GCU.

Hon. Milner Tozaka, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade MP for North Vella La Vella. Photo credit: GCU.

Foreign Affairs and External Trade Minister Milner Tozaka says the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations, also known as PACER Plus, can provide development benefits to Solomon Islands.

Speaking in Port Vila, Vanuatu on Tuesday Minister Tozaka says difficult discussions remain in the negotiations, but the finish line is in sight.

He said they are confident that both sides we can come to a mutually beneficial agreement with increased understanding and some compromises.

He adds at the end of the day all parties want to ensure the Pacific can meaningfully benefit from trade integration and has improved access to labour mobility opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.

The Pacific’s main demands in the negotiations include improved access to the Australian and New Zealand labour markets, primarily through changes to seasonal worker schemes.

The Pacific also wants additional development assistance to ensure that the Pacific can exploit the PACER Plus agreement.

The Pacific is also expecting Australia and New Zealand to undertake substantive commitments in these two areas.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Minister says there are significant development benefits to labour mobility and untapped gains to be achieved.

Milner Tozaka said PACER Plus will hopefully act as a catalyst in growing existing seasonal worker schemes and opening additional opportunities for Solomon Islanders.

He said on the trade side, while PACER plus will improve access to the Australian and New Zealand markets, the country needs new support to ensure that exporters and businesses in Solomon Islands can truly benefit by increasing their productive capacity.

He said the Solomon Islands has seen previous agreements that market access alone is not sufficient to increase exports.

The 10th Intercessional discussions on PACER Plus was in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Negotiations on PACER Plus was launched by Pacific Leaders in August 2009 in Cairns, Australia.

SIBC News understands the PACER Plus Parties intend to conclude the negotiations by July next year.

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