"PACER Plus is a unique trade and development agreement. It includes a development package of more than $55 million that will help raise standards of living, create employment opportunities and increase export capacity in Pacific Island countries," Mr McClay says.
The agreement which was reached in Brisbane today by Pacific Island, New Zealand and Australian Trade Ministers includes tariff phase out periods which recognise the vulnerable nature of many Pacific economies and the strong relationship they share with Australia and New Zealand.
"This is a significant achievement. After 8 years of negotiations, we can now focus on implementing an agreement which future-proofs our access whilst helping develop their export economies," Mr McClay says.
"The agreement will also create a common set of trading rules covering goods, services and investment in support of economic growth. These rules will help reduce tariffs and red tape for exporters and investors, which will increase the attractiveness of the region for trade and investment," Mr McClay says.
The 14 countries participating in PACER Plus are New Zealand, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
An expedited procedure has been agreed for other Forum Island countries to join the Agreement.
A formal signing of the agreement is scheduled to take place in Tonga in June.