The Pacer-Plus Agreement between Australia and the Pacific Island Nations

Eloise attended the 2012 WTO Public Forum in Geneva where she represented Macquarie University. She is currently studying a Masters of International Relations and is a member of the Macquarie Global Leadership Program. She has completed an internship with the Australian Institute of International Affairs.


In 2001 Australia and New Zealand began negotiating a trade deal with thirteen Pacific Island nations (the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu). The trade deal, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), was to cover trade in goods, services and investment.1 It provided the framework for a further trade agreement that was planned to develop into a free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and New Zealand and the Pacific Island countries (PICs) and by 2011, known as the PACER-Plus.2 PACER-Plus was to be a regional FTA but one that held the development of the PICs at its heart.3 However from the launch of PACER-Plus negotiations in August 2009 by Pacific Islands Forum leaders, critics questioned whether such an FTA was in reality compatible and even desirable. Critics contested the congruence of this agreement that asserted its primary focuses to include the PICs’ development and enhancing the PICs’ capacity to engage in international trade, yet simultaneously required the PICs to liberalise their markets. This paper provides an examination of the arguments for and against the establishment of PACER-Plus, concluding that an FTA should not be the vehicle for any pursuit that has development as its principal objective.4 

Read More