Fiji, PNG opt out

BRISBANE – Australia finally wrapped up negotiations with New Zealand and 12 Pacific Island countries to reach a historic trade and development deal, but two of the region’s major players Fiji and Papua New Guinea have opted out.

Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said the deal would directly benefit one million people in the Pacific Island region. The deal, reached in Brisbane, includes 12 Pacific Island nations.

In the wake of the collapse of the much bigger Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) was touted as a unique, unprecedented trade and development deal for the sustainable economic development of the region.

The agreement covers goods, services and investment and includes tariff phase-out periods. It will include a development package of more than $F79 million to help create jobs and boost export capacity in Pacific Island countries.

Fiji and Papua New Guinea said last year they would not sign up to PACER Plus.

Papua New Guinea had pulled out, saying it felt it could negotiate better bilateral deals while Fiji said the PACER Plus terms were not attractive enough.

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