Minister for Tourism and International Education
Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment
Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck
29 October 2015
PRESS CONFERENCE at the Forum Trade ministers Meeting
held at the EDGEWATER RESORT, RAROTONGA
P... hiva Tu'i'onetoa, Minister for Commerce & Labour, Tonga
Todd McClay, Minister for Revenue, Minister for State Owned Enterprises, Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, New Zealand
Dion Taufitu, Minister, Niue
Taukelina Taui Finikaso, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour, Tuvalu
P... hiva Tu'i'onetoa: Thank you. My name is P... hiva Tu'i'onetoa from Tonga. I am the Minister for Labour and Commerce. This is my first meeting, but I'm grateful that I'm here - especially for the Pacific partners in the agreement between Australia and New Zealand. PACER Plus. And from the Tongan position, we very much wish that this agreement be completed as soon as possible.
We are very much at the forefront in trying to be involved, and we has been completed our market access offer, so that when the agreement is completed, we have to take advantage of the benefits from the agreement. That is the main thing that I do appreciate of being involved in the Trade Ministers' meeting here this week.
Convenor: And now Richard, do you want to say something now?
RIchard Colbeck: Thank you to our friends from Tonga, and I'd firstly like to thank and congratulate the Cook Islands for their hospitality here, conducting this Trade Ministers' meeting. What has impressed me, also at my first meeting, is the drive that exists within the Pacific nations towards the opening of trade amongst the various partners in the region and the recognition of the importance that allowing a free flow of investment between economies, and across the region, is going to play in the economic development of the region.
I was very very pleased to see, as part of our deliberations, the commitment that has been repeated here today from the Pacific Leaders' Forum in Papua New Guinea recently towards completion of the PACER Plus negotiations by the end of June next year. Australia sees that as a really important part of the opportunity for development of the region, and we were very pleased to be able to announce today additional funding to support trade between Australia and our regional partners. We see that as a really important contribution to this process.
We all understand, and expressed during the meeting the importance of the broader WTO process - understanding our frustration at the rate that that is progressing, but also the importance of it. And therefore for us to complete the PACER Plus process, which provides a regional format here in the Pacific for freeing and opening of trade for the benefit of our economies and what part that might play in the broader global jigsaw of freeing trade internationally.
One thing that I think is quite clear: there is a very strong momentum in the region at this point in time towards cooperation and collaboration, we've seen that recently through the Fisheries Ministers' meetings; towards getting a sustainable management regime around the major fisheries in the Pacific, and that is now working across the broader trade agenda.
And so a very very successful meeting I think here today: strong levels of cooperation across all nations, and as I said before, very pleasingly, a strong commitment to the completion of the PACER Plus negotiations by the end of June next year.
Todd McClay: Thank you very much. Well on my part can I offer my thanks to the Government and the people of the Cook Islands for the way we've been hosted here over the last couple of days. And in particular our thanks to Prime Minister Puna, who has successfully chaired our Trade Ministers' meeting today, and chaired it towards a successful conclusion.
As with my colleagues, I too believe that there's a growing momentum in as far as our discussions on trade are concerned, and finding ways to, you know, bring down some of the barriers in trade between Pacific Island countries, Australia and New Zealand.
Of recent times, as we look around the world, trade agreements have been forged between groups of countries. And from that, greater benefit has come, both for economies, but in particular for people of those countries. So the challenge for all of the countries of the Forum Pacific Island Nations is to make sure that we negotiate a successful agreement that's of benefit to those countries, but particularly to the people of the Pacific.
Of note, of our work, I want to recognise the importance of fisheries, both the trade, but as a resource for Pacific Island nations, and to remember that our Prime Minister in New Zealand, John Key, announced at the Forum Leaders' Meeting a few months ago, $50 million to be made available to go towards the sustainability of fish stocks in the Pacific, but also to look at ways that we can increase the value and the worth of those fish to the countries that these fish swim through. And it's very much a joint effort: our interest is ensuring that the fish stocks remain available for the future, but the value is maximised for Pacific Island nations.
In as far as PACER Plus is concerned, our leaders have set a target of reaching conclusion to the negotiations by June of 2016. And that target was endorsed by Trade Ministers here in Rarotonga today, and we've committed to redoubling our efforts to work through remaining issues so that we can reach this agreement in 2016. This PACER Plus I think needs to be seen as more than just a trade agreement - in fact our closest relationship with any group of countries of the world is with the nations of the Pacific Islands, and therefore the developmental component of PACER Plus is as important as the trade aspects are.
And in particular I want to thank the countries of the Pacific for working with us, and in many areas are reaching agreement, either on the areas or conditions around this development part, or in the ways forward to reach agreement. And coupled with that is now we enter into the stage where we look quite closely at some of the trade-related aspects, but this does need to be seen as a partnership, and, you know, it's good that we've committed to, with our officials, work as hard as we can to reach a successful conclusion to PACER Plus during the course of 2016.
It will be seen as an agreement that's not only good for the larger countries in the Pacific, but particularly also of importance to the smaller countries; and as the world looks for ways to trade more together, it's the New Zealand Government's position that the Pacific needs to play a very important role in that, and therefore successful conclusion to PACER Plus is a step towards opening up valuable markets around the world to our Pacific neighbours and friends.
Convenor: Do we have any questions from Cook Islands News and Cook Islands television?
Journalist: This might be targeted towards both New Zealand and Australia, but could you speak about the PACER Plus in terms of removing a cap from seasonal workers, and also I think New Zealand has increased (Indistinct 10.59)
RIchard Colbeck: Yeah, sure. So we have removed the cap on seasonal workers, and also through the PACER Plus negotiation provided the opportunity for other countries to join in on that programme once the negotiations are completed. It also figures as part of our Northern Australia Development White Paper: the requirement for additional labour, particularly into our agricultural sector as that grows, is important.
The Seasonal Worker Programme is seen, and regarded very highly by our agricultural sector in Australia, and so the opportunity to work with existing countries, and then potentially bring new countries into the programme once the PACER Plus negotiations are completed, is seen as a real opportunity for Australia, but also obviously the opportunity for employment from those Pacific Island nations. So we see that as a really positive thing that we've been able to achieve as part of this process, but also recognising its importance to Australia as well. So there is a win-win here for our agricultural sector as it grows in Australia, but the opportunities for employment from Pacific Island nations.
Todd McClay: In a part of New Zealand we, too, recently, have increased the number of people who can come in under an RSE Scheme, and in particular it's important to note that the majority of these places are filled of citizens from Pacific Island nations and the experience is extremely positive.
It would be my view that in the coming years there's going to be increasing demand as New Zealand has opportunities to produce more in trade under some of the agreements that we've recently concluded with other parts of the world, and it would be important to make sure that the RSE scheme remains fit for purpose, it delivers for New Zealand businesses who require seasonal labour, but also that it will deliver for Pacific Island nations.
We have two pilot projects underway at the moment around semi-skilled people: one in the area of fisheries; the other is going to be in construction. And this is an opportunity for us to look and test how best we might meet some of the requirements that have been raised with us on the part of the Pacific Island nations to provide greater skill and training in specific areas where they have requirements in their nations.
And so I think it will be important for us to focus intently on making sure that these pilots are successful, that they work very well, that New Zealand business and industry sees value in them so that they, too, can play a part in providing this experience that's required. And we've made a commitment to continue to work closely with the Forum countries to make sure that in the desires they have and the requirements that New Zealand will identify they're fit for purpose and delivering from both sides.
Journalist: The recent conclusion of the TPP, I'm wondering what benefits you see for the Pacific Islands or (indistinct 14.02) a party to it.
Todd McClay: Well, overall reducing barriers to trade anywhere in the world is good for trading nations and Pacific Island countries are trading nations. We need to recognise that maybe the smaller countries face barriers. Some of them are supply side; some of them are logistics; some of them are just necessarily capacity for access to market. So whilst there's not a direct benefit under TPP to the Pacific Island countries, certainly with Australia and New Zealand having reached agreement with these other nations, which opens up, you know, 800 million consumers, the closer our relationship with the Pacific Island countries, the better there are opportunities not only for that trade but around foreign investment.
I guess the importance of this, though, is that it's not what happens if you're involved in an agreement - it's the challenge of when you're not. And so there will be countries in the early days that might well have thought they could have been involved in TPP and for some reason chose not to be. Well, what we know will happen under TPP is trade will grow significantly as barriers are brought down and investment will flow. So sometimes not being involved in the agreement means you need to think of the missed opportunity that will be there. I believe that's the reason that our leaders have set a target of delivering a high quality agreement under PACER Plus for the region by 2016: because then it means we have the opportunity to spend more time talking about trade facilitation and boosting trade from Pacific Island nations towards New Zealand and Australia rather than continuing to talk about the rules that might boost trade.
RIchard Colbeck: Yeah, and I might just add to that: I think that the negotiations that we've been undertaking do a couple of things. One, is the opportunity for an indirect benefit - and you've already talked about that in the context of the Seasonal Worker Programme. So that additional trade and the additional demand for product out of Australia gives us capacity to open our market up in that way to bring in additional labour that we require to meet those markets.
But also what we try to do in the negotiation of our free trade agreements is to have the conditions as common as possible across the various agreements that we put in place. And that does set a framework and becomes part of a broader global jigsaw puzzle, as I indicated earlier, for trading conditions across various agreements.
We know that other countries are looking at the TPP. I know from personal conversations that other countries are considering the option to join the TPP. And so that option does exist. The rules and the frameworks are there and they're well-understood. That's also part of the conversation that we're having in the context of the PACER Plus agreement. So the more common the trading conditions are, the more broadly they're spread. It actually does work to open up global trade and investment. And one of the things that we've talked about as part of this process is the capacity to attract investment into some of the Pacific Island nations. That is very very important in the context of growth, development of employment and wealth into those countries. Therefore, the negotiations that we're undertaking to look at trade and investment become really important in the capacity of capital to flow freely across those markets, because capital is one of the more fluid of the commodities that will go back to places of best return and where it's easiest to go. So removing barriers to flow of capital is really important, and all of these frameworks serve to do that.
Journalist: Gentlemen, you mentioned fisheries as one of the trades. Can you elaborate on other possibilities of trade between the nations?
RIchard Colbeck: Well look, fisheries is obviously one of the key sectors for this region, and having had the opportunity to represent Australia at foreign fishery agency meetings over the last couple of years, I get a good understanding of that - really important. And it's a key sector underpinning a lot of economies. With the development of other services and investment there are significant opportunities - development in tourism, for example, but also in services. There is a significant growing trade globally in the service sector and the opportunity for Pacific Island nations to participate in those areas. I don't differentiate between any of them; the opportunity to develop businesses in those areas is important. And one of the things that we also talked about during the meeting today was the development of ICT, and that is a key enabler. So there are a number of things that have been discussed we'll continue to progress as part of our trade ministers' meetings that will assist the development and the growth of the economies in these Pacific nations, and with the development of ICT in particular, it completely changes the rules in what's possible and opens up a whole range of new markets that people might not have considered in the past.
Journalist: This may be directed at New Zealand, but 20, 30 years ago, thereabouts, the Cook Islands supplied New Zealand with all the exotic fruits and vegetables and then that stopped and there's definitely a tyranny of distance. Do you ever see a situation... You've seen our beautiful farms. We've got outer islands that need growth in that area. Do you see a possibility of that market re-opening?
Todd McClay: Well through a high quality agreement like PACER Plus there is all the opportunity in the world for Pacific Island nations to produce goods that New Zealanders, consumers, will demand. Indeed, as trade barriers around the world have fallen, the ability for consumers to consume fruits and so on, at all times of the year rather than being seasonal, has increased. But with that, of course, has come greater competition. One of the opportunities that PACER Plus does provide, and one of the important (things) will be addressing some of the supply side constraints and some of the transitional measures that will be needed to build capacity to allow that to happen. Indeed, New Zealand consumers want high quality goods and to many respects they don't mind where they come from in the world. The ability to produce and deliver to market and supply consistently something is important, and you know, we've recognised that during our meetings to date.
The other issue, I think, and I agree with the Minister from Australia, is around ICT and the opportunities that provides. We've agreed between us that we know in both Australia and New Zealand there will be people getting up early in the morning on Friday (?21.05) and watching the All Blacks and Australia do battle and many of them will be watching it over the internet. Gone are the days where we used to have to get up at three in the morning and sit around a little black and white TV. This means the world changes because of connectivity. One of the ways forward for Pacific Island nations to deal with that tyranny of distance as you've described it is to make sure that they have very good connection and access to the rest of the world. There is no reason why somebody now needs to sit in an office in Queen Street doing their work when they could be sitting beside the pool here in Rarotonga connected over the internet doing exactly the same job. And I haven't spoken to anybody in Queen Street, but I'm sure they'd prefer to be working here beside the pool.
Journalist: Obviously Australia and New Zealand have a lot to offer. Do you think there was participation between the other Pacific Islands to look at inter-trade between those?
Todd McClay: Well, that falls outside of the PACER Plus Agreement and there are other agreements in place that enable that, and it's certainly something that I think the New Zealand Government is supportive of. It's a discussion we're involved in, but it is very much a discussion amongst the Pacific Island countries themselves. But our leaders also set a target of looking towards greater regional cooperation and integration. I think the reasons that they focussed on this as important ways forward and where we need additional political leadership is because through countries working together, there can be greater prosperity. So it's certainly something New Zealand's supportive of and that we would continue to encourage.
Journalist: Perhaps just to wind up: is everybody happy? Do you think this was a very successful trade meeting for everybody? Does everyone agree with that?
DION TAUFITU: Yes, I'm totally agreed. Coming out from this meeting today, my delegation here in the south (?23.16) are very grateful. Because the key issues that we discuss of this trade meeting are so important and we all discuss and endorsed those issues. As we all know, trade and its related activities are at the heart of these meetings year after year, of this body, the Trade Ministers' Meeting. Because it's the heart of our people. Without trade in a proper manner, things will be very difficult for our people. As we all know, that our people - you know, there's more so those at a crossroads (?24.14) level rely almost 100% of goods coming in. This is very important. We can't (indistinct 24.28) coconuts, you know, or taros - most of those is coming from outside. They're very important in these meetings. Not only that, there are lots of very important pieces (?24.44) to tie in. Yes, trade, if (indistinct 24.50) in the lives of our people, but that's not in its isolation.
No. You have to be in creating transportation. Some of our small economies have difficulties here, when we come to transportation. Transportation here is the heart also, of our people. I know that like in Niue, yes, those coming from outside, coming, you know, from shipping, the (indistinct 25.22) Line called monthly here. But (indistinct 25.27) looked (indistinct). Apart from Air New Zealand, we look at regionalism, as I said in my English - that's my very best (indistinct 25.40) - regionalism where we're served by airline, you know, here in the Pacific region say from here to Niue, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, here, and other islands near. I believe, you know, there are (indistinct 26.04) coming from the Cook Islands to Niue and vice versa from Samoa where our people used to go down shopping there, when the (indistinct 26.14) lines are still flying.
So coming back to what I'm saying: trade is not a national issue affecting itself. Without trade or without good transportations, apart from shopping, yeah it will be a successful story in the end with all those things in place. Thank you.
Journalist: (indistinct 26.39) talking to the other honourable ministers, if they'd like to make a comment.
TAUKELINA TAUI FINIKASO: We've had meetings here, a series of meetings between the officials and also a meeting of the trade ministers. And of course we would like to thank the officials and the Forum Secretary for doing all the hard work, whereby when the ministers came it was a lot easier for them because the hard work has already been done by our officials. So we thank the officials, the Forum Secretary, the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor for the hard work that you have done.
Yes, and we are quite happy with the results of the operation of meetings, especially the issues that were brought up by Australia and New Zealand. The PACER Plus negotiation, they are moving on very well, with the hope that we can have them included by June of next year. We have our interest with these agreements for the smaller island countries like Tuvalu. We have the legal mobility there and the development of systems - issues that we are actually very much looking forward to the implementation stage of it. So we can't wait for this to operate, you know. We want this quickly done so that our people can benefit from this. We have people back home who do not have opportunities to work. And by having these legal mobilities and fisheries and other issues that are within the PACER Plus negotiations, our people will benefit from this. So we've been very happy with the PACER Meeting and we see that we will benefit in the concept that we have come up with, and also the regionalism, the acting together that has been seen with the ministers. It has made the meeting very pleasant and meeting easy to conclude because of the consensus that is pressing (?28.44) about the ministers. So from Tuvalu we are quite happy with the outcome of the meeting. Thank you.
P... hiva Tu'i'onetoa: May I make a last comment. I do commend Australia and New Zealand for a positive response for the labour, for taking (indistinct 29.05) and the labour mobility. You mentioned the fisheries. I think from the position of Tonga, and it probably (indistinct 29.17) after the completion of the PACER Agreement, the only area that we can benefit most is fisheries and agriculture. Other areas take a long time for us to develop on them. But still, the main advantage of this agreement is so that we can negotiate and talk to each other. From the side of New Zealand and Australia they can see those difficulties, for us to meet the requirement of their markets, and they can relate with the agreement of the development assistance so that we can meet the standard, so that our produce, our products can be in their markets. Thank you.
Convenor: That concludes our press conference. Thank you (indistinct 30.16) and thank you to the media.