The experience of negotiating a trade deal with the European Union alerted trade officials and civil society groups in the P14 countries of the need to be better prepared next time around. That time is now as the P14 have agreed to commence PACER Plus3 negotiations with Australia and New Zealand. Many in the Pacific have lobbied for a phased approach to PACER Plus negotiations to include space for national consultations. This paper presents an overview of how an informed and inclusive national dialogue can ensure wider appreciation of the different options for participation in PACER Plus discussions. As a first step it will be necessary for these options to be communicated in terms that do not alienate those not familiar with the overly cumbersome technical trade jargon, so that each country can better determine the direction they want to take the talks.
Key messages resonating from PiPP’s latest discussion paper include:
- PACER Plus is more than just a free trade agreement or even an ‘extended’ trade agreement.
- National consultations will allow a fuller assessment of the opportunities and challenges under PACER Plus, but only if there is effective participation of all stakeholders.
- Effective participation requires access to useful information and a coherent framework to engage, mediate and negotiate different interests.
- Consultation is more than providing information and inviting comment. It also angers and alienates people if it is not genuine and inclusive.
- There is no point consulting if those consulting are not prepared to consider changing what they do in response to what is said.
- A well structured communications strategy is more than transmitting information; it is about using communication to generate new knowledge and consensus in order to facilitate change.
- A well managed national dialogue will both inform and be informed by ongoing research.
- Consultation is not about slowing the process; it is about better outcomes.