Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Questions on Notice

Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (Question No. 678)

Photo of Bob BrownBob Brown (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade, upon notice, on 1 June 2011:

(1)   According to the department's website, Australia is 'providing $500,000 a year for three years to help fund the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser [OCTA], to provide independent support and advice to Forum Island Countries over the course of the negotiations' yet, according to an OCTA media release, dated 29 March 2011, 'Australia and New Zealand are yet to confirm whether they will provide the funds promised for the second and third years of operation to the OCTA as now constituted': will Australia provide funding to the OCTA for a further 2 years as per the promised commitment and will that funding arrangement support the maintenance of Forum Island Country control of the OCTA; if not, what are the specific reasons for the funding being withheld.

(2)   Given that the Government has not included PACER Plus in both its trade policy statement released in April 2011 nor in its report to the World Trade Organization (WTO): can an explanation be provided as to: (a) why PACER Plus was not included; and (b) how its exclusion will affect Australia's approach to PACER Plus negotiations.

(3)   Does the exclusion of PACER Plus from the trade policy statement mean that it will not longer have to be negotiated as a WTO compatible free trade agreement.

Photo of Stephen ConroyStephen Conroy (Victoria, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) Share this | | Hansard source

The Minister for Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1)   Australia is continuing to fulfil its commitment to provide $500,000 a year for three years to the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) to assist the Forum Island countries in the PACER Plus negotiations. The Australian Government provided funding for the first year of the OCTA's operations through an arrangement with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Prior to OCTA becoming a legal entity, Australia agreed that unspent Australian Government funding from the first year of the OCTA's operations would be rolled over to fund its operations in the second year. On 12 May 2011, the Australian Government sent the OCTA and Forum Island countries a draft funding agreement for the OCTA's second and third years of operation. Australia expects to finalise the funding agreement soon.

(2)   (a) References to the PACER Plus negotiations were not included in the April 2011 Trade Policy Statement or the Government's report to the WTO Trade Policy Review of Australia because Australia's approach to the PACER Plus negotiations is different to that taken in traditional free trade agreement negotiations. Australia's primary objective for the PACER Plus agreement is to promote the sustainable economic development of Forum Island countries through greater regional trade and economic integration.

(2)   (b) Australia's approach to the PACER Plus negotiations is not affected.

(3)   Australia is committed to pursuing through the PACER Plus negotiations an agreement which is consistent with the WTO rules related to free trade agreements.