The Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA) has entered a two-year grant funding arrangement for NZ$1.3 million (US$1million) with the Government of New Zealand on 7 July 2011.The OCTA was established in March 2010 to provide independent advice and technical support to Forum Island Countries (FICs) in the PACER Plus negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. It is wholly controlled and owned by the FICs.
In October 2009, as part of the agreement to commence PACER Plus negotiations, the Governments of Australia and New Zealand committed to fund the OCTA, with contributions of AU$500,000 and NZ$650,000 per annum respectively for a period of 3 years.
In the first year funding was provided under an interim arrangement through the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. After the first year the OCTA was required to conclude new direct funding arrangements with Australia and New Zealand.
Forum Trade Ministers agreed in May 2011 that funding arrangements between development partners and the OCTA should not compromise the independence and integrity of the OCTA operations and activities.
The funding arrangement with New Zealand has been designed to protect the integrity of the advice and support provided by the OCTA to the FICs, while ensuring full accountability for funds received.
Peter Shanel, Solomon Islands Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade and the Chair of the OCTA Governing Board said: "We thank the Government of New Zealand for the provision of funding for our second year of operation in a way that respects the FICs' wish to preserve the independence of the OCTA. The fund will allow us to continue providing independent advice and technical support to our members".
The Agreement also does not preclude other funding sources from contributing to the establishment or implementation of the OCTA and its work programme.
The OCTA is hopeful of concluding a similar funding agreement with Australia shortly.