Leingkone wants Australia to review visa granting


This week the  Bruno Leingkone, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade is attending the second high level meeting on the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relation plus (PACER Plus) in Brisbane, Australia. He was accompanied by the High Commissioner of Vanuatu to Australia, Kalfau Kaloris and the Director of External Trade Mr. Sumbue Antas. The two days meetings commenced on Monday 29th of February to Tuesday 1st of March, 2016 at the Novotel Hotel in Brisbane. The high level meeting was opened by a keynote address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade of Solomon islands and the lead spokesperson of the PACER plus for Forum island Countries.
The main objective of the high level meeting was for the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) to provide an overview on the trade negotiation progress and considering the development impacts of the current PACER Plus, especially on the legal texts of the agreement that was already concluded and issues that is still under negotiation. The overview also sets out the scenario to aim at concluding the negotiations on PACER Plus by June 2016 – this date for conclusion was agreed in 2015 by the Forum Leaders.
The proceedings of the first day provided an overview on trade in services, development assistance, investment and labour mobility. Minister Leingkone reaffirmed Vanuatu’s interest on trade in services, development assistance, investment and labour mobility captures the interest of Vanuatu’s people and livelihood. He mentioned that tourism is one of the services big export market of Vanuatu including investment and the growing labour mobility market which includes the recognized seasonal employment (RSE) scheme and the seasonal workers program (SWP) to New Zealand and Australia are also crucial for our communities.
The Minister will also speak to New Zealand at the meeting to secure the two pilot schemes in writing, which are the Canterbury rebuilding of 100,000 buildings in Christ Church and the fisheries where employees can work on their fishing boat that was introduced by New Zealand in 2015. He stated that Vanuatu will continue to demand from New Zealand to remove the RSE cap allowing more ni-Vanuatu unskilled workers to work in New Zealand farms and expanding to other industries in the future. He acknowledged Australia removing the SWP cap and introducing new industries to the Pacific including tourism which Vanuatu is already benefiting. In his discussion Minister Leingkone also raised the visa issue which SWP workers are required to spend considerable time and money to have their visas processed via Hobart, Australia. He called on Australia should review their decision and grant visa in Port Vila instead which would be efficient and cost effective for Vanuatu workers. He stated that the numbers of workers from Vanuatu using the RSE and SWP sets out the reasons and rationale for easier visa processing in Vanuatu.
Minister Leingkone alluded that Vanuatu’s participation in New Zealand’s Recognized Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and the Australia’s Seasonal Workers Program (SWP) is important to our economy development. He acknowledged the labour department on the implementation of the schemes and emphasized that the labour mobility developments and benefits could only increase our benefit through Vanuatu’s participation in trade negotiations and agreements such as PACER Plus Trade Agreement with Australia and New Zealand.
The second day of the second high level Meeting covers the overview on trade in goods, customs rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures and the technical barriers to trade. The minister stated these are important areas that Vanuatu continues to negotiate with the 14 Forum island countries including Australia and New Zealand. Minister Leingkone stated that while Vanuatu is highly dependent on revenue collected from duties and our industries continue pushing their interest being an infant industries which only shows that Vanuatu commitment of its tariff liberalization may be considered based on our interest and Vanuatu economic developments. He stated that the current government 100 days plan on reviewing Vanuatu’s position on PACER plus trade negotiation will positively impact on our collaboration with the relevant ministries and the PM’s office to continue dialogue on its development aspirations.
The second high level meeting was closed by a statement made by Minister Tozaka.
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