PROMINENT Australian economist Dr Patricia Ranald (pictured) has said the Pacer-Plus Pacific regional trade agreement has failed agreement it excludes Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea.
The three countries rejected the deal earlier this year while 11 other Pacific islands nations signed up last month.
The agreement calls for greater economic ties and cooperation between the Pacific Islands and Australia and New Zealand.
Despite the majority of Pacific Island countries supporting the agreement, Dr Ranald said Pacer-Plus had failed as a regional agreement because it excluded Fiji and Papua New Guinea, the two strongest economies in the Pacific that could realistically compete with Australian and New Zealand exports.
“There are serious weaknesses in the agreement because the three largest economies are saying there are no benefits for them,” Dr Ranald said.
“PNG and Fiji's rejection shows that the agreement is heavily skewed towards the interests of Australia and New Zealand — despite early rhetoric that the agreement was about development needs.”
Australian trade ministry official Keith Pitt, disagreeing with Dr Ranald’s view, stated that "Fiji has much to gain from Pacer-Plus, which will increase the flow of goods and investment in the region.”