This month marks the second anniversary of when the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER Plus) entered into force.
PACER Plus is a regional development-centered trade agreement designed to support Pacific Island countries to become more active partners in, and benefit from, regional and global trade. Ten Pacific Island Forum countries ratified and have been party to the agreement since its entry into force on 13 December 2020: Australia, Cook Islands, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
The PACER Plus Implementation Unit (PPIU), which manages and delivers the work programme, was established in Apia, Samoa last year. PPIU works with Pacific parties to implement activities under PACER Plus.
The agreement provides members with a framework to sustainably grow their trade in services and expand participation in key service sectors such as tourism. Sustainable tourism development is a key driver of economic recovery in the Pacific with PACER Plus enabling more transparent and predictable operation conditions for domestic and foreign service providers.
With the reopening of Tonga’s international borders, PPIU supported the Tongan tourism industry with training programs on customer service, communications, COVID-19 protocols, and other priority themes identified through a training needs analysis.
“The impact of the pandemic on the Tongan tourism industry has been severe but we were pleased that PACER Plus provided the much-needed training to prepare our tourism industry as we welcome the world back to Tonga,” said Ms Lorraine Kauhenga, Deputy CEO at Tonga Ministry of Trade and Economic Development.
PPIU was also pleased to support Solomon Islands and Samoa with the ePhyto Capacity Building Workshop attended by exporters and industry stakeholders.
The electronic phytosanitary certificate, otherwise known as ePhyto, is a tool that transitions paper phytosanitary certificate information into a digital phytosanitary certificate. This electronic exchange between countries makes trade safer, faster, and cheaper.
“ePhyto promotes opportunities to improve bilateral trade in the region and other parts of the world. It will advance trade efficiency by reducing costs associated with bilateral negotiations and reduce fraudulent certificates.
The ePhyto system will improve trade thereby improving incomes, creating more employment opportunities, and thereby enhancing economic development,” said La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt, Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
This year, Samoa hosted the sixth Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM) where more than 150 delegates from government, private sector, international agencies, and stakeholders in the Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, and Timor Leste to discuss labour mobility priorities in the region.
“The PLMAM is a significant medium by which we are advancing inclusive regional labour mobility cooperation in the Pacific.
This meeting’s theme of ‘Reinvigorating labour mobility cooperation for development’ reiterates the opportunity for all labour mobility stakeholders to re-engage, reset and re-commit to advancing an effective level of cooperation that can enhance mutually beneficial development gains,” said Hon. Leatinu’u Wayne So’oialo, Samoa’s Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Labour.
Moving forward, PPIU will focus on exports and broader trade facilitation in the agricultural sector, recovery of the tourism industry, improving cooperation under labour mobility, and implementing activities that focus on enabling PACER Plus parties to meet requirements of importing countries, implementing systems that make trade easier, and promoting export products while establishing business connections across the PACER Plus network.