The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus is a regional free trade agreement covering goods, services and investment that aims at facilitating trade and strengthening regional integration in the Pacific. For the implementation of the agreement, signatory countries need to acquire in the capacity to fulfil their commitments on publication, notification, and information exchange.
UNCTAD provides training and assistance to the nine Pacific island countries – Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – to increase their regulatory transparency in trade and investment-related capacity to reach the standards set out in PACER Plus. The project aims at strengthening regional integration and competitiveness to create economic opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises.
The project combines the strengths of four UNCTAD teams and areas of expertise:
- Non-Tariff Measures : UNCTAD has long-standing experience in establishing regulatory transparency. Having collected non-tariff measures data since the 1980s, UNCTAD now maintains the largest regulatory database covering over 100 countries and more than 85 per cent of world trade (trainsonline.unctad.org). Based on the collected data, UNCTAD conducts research and provides policy support and capacity building.
- Trade Facilitation : UNCTAD has assisted more than 50 National Trade Facilitation Committees in the world with gap analysis, needs assessments and/or project proposal development on facilitating transparency of trade procedures.
- Trade Portals : UNCTAD also supports the design, development, and maintenance of trade portals, which are online platforms where trade procedures information is disseminated, including forms, requirements and contact data. UNCTAD is currently running trade portal projects in approximately twenty developing countries.
- Trade and Gender: UNCTAD’s expertise in addressing insufficient awareness, data, analysis, representation and action on women’s empowerment in trade and trade policy will be mainstreamed throughout the project.
The project identifies capacity gaps and strengthens the institutional environment of the nine Pacific islands to ensure full compliance with the transparency obligations of PACER Plus.
Three modes of technical assistance are provided:
- At the regional level, the project builds capacity through regional workshops and assists the development of a regional strategy for the exchange of information among PACER Plus signatories, materialized in the launch for a regional network initiative and a regional trade portal to coordinate the implementation of the transparency obligations in PACER Plus (pacific.tradeportal.org/). The target audience is national Contact/Focal points.
- At the national level, a technical assistance package composed of national training workshops sets the basis for national networks of stakeholders, laying foundations for National Transparency Committees for PACER Plus. The target audience is a wider group of relevant stakeholders from the public and private sector, as identified during the stakeholder analysis at the beginning of the project.
A key output of the project are the national and regional trade portals that offer practical guidance to make the life of importers, exporters, entrepreneurs and foreign investors easier. As freely accessible websites, the portals provide an easy-to-follow step-by-step approach to trade procedures and answer relevant questions. Where do I need to go and what institutions are in charge? Who is the contact person? What are the costs? How much time does it take? What are the opening hours? What documents do I need to bring? Traders can look up all relevant trade-related legislation and regulations to import or export within the region.
On the portals, sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), technical barriers to trade, regulations regarding licensing and quantitative restriction like quotas and prohibitions are all just one click away. In addition, women entrepreneurs and women business associations can find specific analyses on trade and gender issues as well as information on non-tariff measures and procedures to export specific goods to Australia and New Zealand, to ensure that trade reduces instead of exacerbates gender inequalities.
The portal is designed to facilitate the coordination between government institutions, and build a base to simplify difficult administrative procedures. It is helping to reduce bureaucratic hurdles and complexity and to create economic opportunities, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises and business associations like the Samoa Association of Manufacturers and Exporters.
At the end of the project, an independent evaluation was conducted.
PACER Plus entered into force on 13 December 2020 during the project period. Australia, Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga, Solomon Islands, New Zealand, Niue and the Cook Islands have ratified the Agreement.
Pacific islands build new economic links with UNCTAD help
UNCTAD opens an office in Samoa to coordinate a trade and transparency project for Pacific small islands, ahead of a regional free trade agreement coming into force in 2019.
PartnersPacific Island Forum, UNESCAP, Oceania Customs Organization
DonorsAustralia, New Zealand
Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu