Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Pacific links: PACER Plus, Vanuatu plastics ban, and more

Links and updates from across the Pacific.

Discarded plastic bag floating in the ocean. (Photo: Getty Images)
Discarded plastic bag floating in the ocean. (Photo: Getty Images)

  • Australia and Papua New Guinea are downplaying concern about a Russian Navy ship docking in Port Moresby for three days this week. It will be the first time in history that a Russian military ship has made a port call in PNG. In The Australian, the Lowy Institute’s Euan Graham questions the diplomatic motivation behind the visit, and states that Russia is “keen to show it was courting countries that the West considered their partners”.
  • Australia’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties has released its final report examining the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus (PACER) Plus, which principally concerns free trade between Australia and New Zealand and Pacific islands countries. The report states that the most significant and immediate issue with the agreement is the absence of Fiji and PNG, and examines the possible impact of PACER Plus on Pacific islands’ economies, health, women, business capacity, aid, and labour mobility.
  • The Australian Financial Review is reporting that senior Australian officials believe that Pacific islands and Asian nations are reconsidering the benefits of receiving Chinese foreign aid after witnessing heavy-handed responses to requests for debt relief. A report recently presented to the US State Department warns that China is creating a “debt trap” in many smaller nations.
  • Resentment is escalating about the fate of royalties from the ExxonMobil-led liquefied natural gas venture in PNG. A new report from Jubilee Australia goes through the issues in detail. The CEO of Oil Search, a partner in the venture, has increased pressure on PNG to hand out benefits owed to local landowners.
  • Pacific Islands Forum leaders will meet with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe this week as part of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) in Fukushima. Abe has stated he intends to “beef up” collaboration with the Pacific islands nations as part of Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy.
  • Back in PNG, the debate over SIM card registrations continues this week, with an injunction preventing forced deactivation of unregistered SIM cards lifted after the court failed to grant an extension to Madang MP Bryan Kramer, who argued against the deactivations.
  • Vanuatu is in the process of implementing a ban on single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, drinking straws, and polystyrene food containers. The ban, which aims to protect the environment and oceans from plastics pollution, will come into effect on 1 July.
  • For The Interpreter, Kerryn Baker has written (“Women’s participation and preferential voting in PNG elections”) about how a possible return to a first-past-the-post voting system in PNG might affect the election of female candidates.
  • And the arrest of Dr Albert Schram, former vice-chancellor of PNG Unitech, has raised concerns. Stephen Howes examined the arrest for Devpolicy.


Pacific Research Program

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