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No more secret negotiations - PANG

No more secret negotiations - PANG

Pacific governments must draw back their veil of secrecy and engage in open, informed, and participatory debate and discussions with their people on the trade and political negotiations they are drawn into, says the Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG).

“NGOs, trade unions, local businesses, the media and ordinary people are not the enemies of governments who want to promote genuine ‘sound’ development policies and stability, they are potential allies,” said PANG Coordinator, Stanley Simpson.

The statement was made as PANG launches an interim report written by Professor Jane Kelsey of Auckland University titled Big Brothers Behaving Badly – The Implications for the Pacific Islands of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER).

“The report reveals a disturbing picture of coercion by Australia and New Zealand from 1998 – 2001 to force the Pacific Islands into agreeing to a trade agreement they did not want to sign on to,” Simpson said. “But the report also finds that if the bullying tactics of Australia and NZ had been more widely known then, it would have strengthened the hand of Pacific Island officials.”

“Australia and NZ are effectively backroom bullies, but Pacific Island governments can stand up and protect their interests by strengthening democratic participation and informed debate among their people.”

For this to happen, PANG said Pacific governments and the Forum Secretariat should release to the public all documentation relevant to past, present and proposed negotiations on regional trade agreements and political and economic unions.

“As the report states, secrecy works to the advantage of powerful governments. The negotiations must not be restricted behind closed doors, or limited to selected members of the private sector,” Simpson said.

“We ask our Forum leaders to have another good look at the Biketawa Declaration they signed on to in 2000 which calls for good governance that is open, transparent, accountable, participatory, consultative and decisive but fair and equitable.”

The report is available on the website: http://www.pang.org.fj and here on Scoop Professor Jane Kelsey: Big Brothers Behaving Badly

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