Australia has demonstrated its commitment to the negotiations for a new Pacific trade and economic agreement - known as PACER plus - by agreeing to a funding arrangement with the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA).

The OCTA was established to provide independent advice and assistance to Forum Island countries in the PACER Plus negotiations.

Australia has previously contributed funding to the OCTA's operations, and the agreed funding arrangement will enable further advice and assistance to be provided by the OCTA for PACER Plus.

"Australia's primary objective for the PACER Plus negotiations is to promote the economic development of Forum Island countries through greater regional trade and economic integration," Richard Marles, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, said.

Mr Marles welcomed the recent appointment by Forum Island countries of Dr Edwini Kessie to be in charge of the OCTA.

"I congratulate Dr Kessie on his appointment," Mr Marles said. "He will bring much to this role. His experience with the World Trade Organization in particular will add real value. We look forward to working with him in the PACER Plus negotiations."

Mr Marles said Australia's continued funding of the OCTA complemented the other assistance provided to support the Forum Island countries' trade capacities. For example, Australia has funded independent research on PACER plus for Forum Island countries, and continues to provide trade-related training of Forum Island countries' officials.

Pacific Island Forum Leaders agreed to start PACER Plus negotiations in 2009. The Forum Island countries involved in the PACER plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand are: the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.