The following is a Press Statement released by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is response to an article that was published regarding the Secretariat's role under PACER.


Tuesday 19th January 2010

Forum Secretariat Corrects Misrepresentations Recently Published by PACNEWS on Friday, 15 January 2010 Regarding its Role Under PACER

This statement is to be attributed to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat:

Following recent reports published in PACNEWS drawn from official sources, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat takes this opportunity to correct a number of false assertions and misrepresentations concerning its role under the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER).

PACER is a framework agreement setting out the basis for the future development of trade relations among all 16 Forum Members. At present, there are 11 Forum member countries which are Parties to PACER.

The PACER Agreement or treaty designates the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat as the depositary for the Agreement. The Forum Secretariat wants to make it very clear in this statement that the Secretary General has discharged his responsibilities as depositary for PACER with absolute propriety in accordance with the Agreement and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The Secretary General takes very seriously his obligations to Forum members and under international law.

In addition to the Secretary General's role as depositary, the Forum Secretariat itself has a number of specific technical and secretarial functions prescribed under the PACER Agreement. This includes the provision of administrative or technical support, subject to the direction of the Parties. The Forum Secretariat's role under PACER is administrative and facilitative, and aimed at ensuring the timely exchange of communications among the Parties.

With respect to formal consultations among the Parties, the PACER Agreement requires that the Parties notify each other "through the Forum Secretariat".

As to the funding for any consultation or meeting not already budgeted for, it is the normal function of a Secretariat to raise the question of costs, in part to enable the Secretariat to investigate all options to secure funding to allow the consultation or meeting to proceed.

The Forum Secretariat therefore reiterates its absolute rejection of all and any claims or assertions that it has at any time failed to discharge its responsibilities under the PACER Agreement.

To the extent that the PACNEWS publication of 15 January 2010 attributes to the Forum Secretariat blameworthy conduct (PACNEWS headline: Fiji blames Forum Secretariat for withdrawal from PACER Plus), the Forum Secretariat emphatically and unreservedly rejects any blame on its part.

The Forum Secretariat would also comment on the erroneous claim of the PACNEWS headline that Fiji's withdrawal is from "PACER Plus".

PACER Plus is a process launched by Forum Leaders in 2008 and now being developed to discuss, more broadly, regional economic integration. PACER Plus was not determined as such under or by the PACER (an existing treaty, as noted above). Rather, PACER Plus was brought about by the political decision of Forum Leaders.

At their last meeting in Cairns, Australia, in 2009, Forum Leaders decided that consistent with the Forum's decisions (relating to Fiji's suspension from Forum meetings and activities) the Fiji military regime would not participate in the PACER Plus.

The decisions of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders relating to Fiji are political determinations. The reasons are known to all.

The Forum Secretariat is a Secretariat. It exists to carry out the mandates of Leaders. It does so conscientiously and with professionalism, in all cases including the situation which is the subject of the PACNEWS publication of 15 January.

Given its role under PACER, it would not be appropriate for the Secretary General or the Forum Secretariat more generally, to comment publicly on the details of Fiji's claims and assertions against other Parties. But the Forum Secretariat reserves the right, at the proper time and place, to counter every untrue, unfair and unwarranted allegation and assertion made against it.

The Forum Secretariat remains committed to its mandated role to support all Forum Members in the implementation of PACER and Forum initiatives more generally.

(Please follow this link to the article by PACNEWS: Fiji blames Forum Secretariat for withdrawal from PACER Plus)