Yeah! NZ is the first to ratify PACER Plus (but don’t expect the Greens to celebrate)

An item of news from the Office of Trade Minister David Parker yesterday was headed  NZ first country to ratify PACER Plus trade deal. 

It would be good news in some quarters that NZ had completed the domestic procedures required to ratify the PACER Plus trade and development agreement. In others the response would have been indifference – but we imagine the Green Party was somewhat soured, because all its MPs opposed the legislative changes that were part of the ratifying process.

Their eight votes against the Tariff (PACER Plus) Amendment Bill at its third reading last month were the only noes, and with a whopping majority of Parliamentary support Parker could get on with doing what needed to be done before he declared yesterday:

“We have notified Tonga as Depositary for PACER Plus. New Zealand is the first country to ratify the agreement. 

“I am pleased the other 10 signatories showed clear momentum towards ratification at the recent Solomon Islands meeting. Our goal is to bring this agreement into force as soon as we can in 2019.” 

New Zealand and Australia are providing “significant development assistance to Pacific signatories to support their efforts to ratify in coming months”.

This reflects New Zealand’s long-held view that PACER Plus (around 10 years in the making) is primarily a development free trade agreement, Parker said.

The sooner PACER Plus enters into force, the sooner Pacific signatories can receive further benefits as part of the implementation phase.

“Pacific signatories will have a direct say in how those funds are spent as we work towards the goal of creating jobs and increasing prosperity in the Pacific,” David Parker said.

“I look forward to continuing to work in partnership with other Pacific Island countries to unlock the further benefits of this agreement.”

PACER Plus comes into force 60 days after at least eight of the 11 signatories have ratified. The other signatories are Australia, the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

More information about PACER Plus, including the full text of the agreement and various fact sheets, are available HERE. 

The Tariff (PACER Plus) Amendment Bill was introduced into Parliament in April and given the Royal Assent on September  13.

The legislation was introduced to implement the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus,  which was signed in Tonga in June last year.

It amended the Tariff Act 1988.

It enables the application of preferential tariff rates for parties to the PACER Plus agreement and amended the rules on “goods re-entered after repair or alteration” in the Tariff. The Customs and Excise Regulations 1996 were amended to give effect to the rules of origin applicable to imports into New Zealand that originate from PACER Plus parties.

But in the third reading debate, Green MP Golriz Ghahraman popped up to express concerns which included the gender implications.

In its submission to the select committee which examined the bill, the New Zealand Federation of Business and Professional Women Inc had brought women’s issues into consideration.

Ghahraman seized on this in her speech:

“They said that most women in the Pacific are not in a position to be trading internationally. They’re not big international traders, and so the money being taken away from gender equity programmes, taken out of the local market, was actually going to hurt women’s empowerment in the Pacific.

“That was what the submission said. So they were not at all confident that a mention of how trade is supposed to now have some benefits for women’s empowerment was actually going to uphold that, given that this is an international trade agreement and that only elite urban traders are going to benefit. That’s not the majority of the Pacific, and it’s certainly not women.”

Hmm.  If you got the gist of that, well done.

Ghahraman further railed against “this trade-for-aid model” spreading in the Pacific.

“The UK will be imposing it. We’ve already criticised China for being there; they engage in it. The EU is coming in to do the same. Why are we contributing? As a good neighbour, as a leader in this region, why are we contributing to this old-world economic order creeping into the Pacific—the most unique and beautiful island nations that are also some of the most vulnerable in the world? That encapsulates the Green Party’s opposition to this deal.”

Ghahraman then said we need progressive trade.

“We’ve already had that promise from the Government, and we know that we are going to deliver that in future for New Zealanders. We hope that nothing like the damaging, the undemocratic trade that will come to us through the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement will ever be incorporated into New Zealand law and our trade model again, but why are we imposing it on the Pacific, where we have the power to actually change that paradigm?”

She summed up:

“The Green Party doesn’t support this trade deal. We never have, and we don’t support the bill. We support progress. We support trade. New Zealand is itself a small island nation, in many ways, and we need trade, but we need it to serve the good of our people, of the environment, and we need it most of all to not undermine democracy. It is in the good of the people and our environment to regulate trade. Unfettered growth on a finite planet is not sustainable, and for that reason I don’t commend this bill to the House.”

 A party vote was called for on the question that the bill be read a third time.

The ayes were 112 (New Zealand National 56; New Zealand Labour 46; New Zealand First 9; ACT New Zealand 1).  The noes were eight (Green Party 8).

And so Parker yesterday could announce a famous world first.  Well, a first anyway.

 

 

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