New Zealand

Fiji and PNG opt out as PACER Plus trade deal reached

Image from Vangelis Vitalis on Twitter. Source: Twitter

Australia, New Zealand and a dozen Pacific Island countries have wrapped talks on a trade and development deal, but Fiji and Papua New Guinea have opted out.

Australia has finally wrapped negotiations with New Zealand and 12 Pacific Island countries to reach an historic trade and development deal, but two of the region's major players have opted out.

Negotiations for the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations known as the PACER Plus deal concluded in Brisbane on Thursday.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, flanked by his New Zealand counterpart Todd McClay, said the deal would directly benefit one million people in the Pacific Island region.

The agreement would help grow sustainable economies across the area and boost trade between parties by removing tariffs, Mr Ciobo said.

But he confirmed both Fiji and Papua New Guinea had elected not to sign up.

"We of course collectively encourage them to come to the table," Mr Ciobo said in Brisbane.

"It would certainly be even stronger with Fiji and PNG in it."

Despite Fiji and PNG opting out, Mr Ciobo said those who backed the agreement collectively felt it was the right time to push ahead and finalise it.

Mr McClay acknowledged negotiations had at times been "quite challenging" given the economic differences between the countries.

There is $50 million in development assistance allocated as part of the deal.

Australian FairTrade and Investment Network slammed the deal.

"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," spokeswoman Patricia Ranald said.

The agreement will be formally signed off on in Tonga on June 16.

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