Regional Trade Development and Integration
What We Do:
Achieving high levels of sustained economic growth is an important development policy objective for Forum countries. The Framework for Pacific Regionalism (2014) recognises the need for a new inclusive and game-changing approach that enables Leaders to realise the unmet development needs of its people. The Blue Pacific narrative presents an opportunity to further demonstrate the value of interconnectedness within the Pacific – between traditional knowledge, science and integrated ocean management – and the fundamental nexus between oceans and trade and economic development.
The Forum is united by its shared values which guide all its policy development and implementation, and one which is committed to deepening regionalism through the auspices of economic and trade policy development (cooperation, integration, improved access to markets (goods, services, labour) and capital/finance. There are opportunities abound for the region, including the emerging economies to our north, new trade arrangements in the PACER Plus for trade and investments and reinvigoration of existing trade agreements in the region.
The Secretariat will work towards improving management for public finances and diversifying the sources of finance, support the private sector through its Pacific Trade and Invest Offices (Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and China, with others to follow), improve access to private capital, expand space for markets between members through existing treaties and the multilateral trading system, increase investment and improve infrastructure in the region.
The Forum Secretariat’s policy work to address these challenges are focused in two broad areas Regional Trade Development and Integration and Economic Policy in terms of advisory and advocacy work.
Forum Trade Ministerial Meetings
The Forum’s Trade Ministers’ Meetings is the main decision making body for the 18 Forum Member Countries on regional trade and investment. Specific issues that require high level strategic Political Leadership are referred to Forum Leaders for their further consideration. It is through this Ministerial Meeting where regional mandates are set and trade policy development initiatives are progressed through the Secretariat for the region. It is represented by Forum Trade Ministers.
Mechanisms to support Regional Integration
Regional Trade arrangements play an increasing role in shaping the trading environment, labour mobility, investment and contribute to the sustainable development goals. The regions trade integration regime has been underpinned through several mechanisms: non-reciprocal arrangements of the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement (SPARTECA), the free trade arrangements under the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and Pacific Closer Economic Relations plus (PACER Plus) between Pacific Islands Forum Countries and Australia and New Zealand. The regions market access to the EU is set by an Economic Partnership Agreement, and other EU unilateral preference arrangements such as the Everything But Arms (EBA) for Least Developed Countries and the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) for developing countries.
The South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement was signed in 1980 in Tarawa, Kiribati and entered into force on 1 January 1981. It is a non-reciprocal trade agreement in which Australia and New Zealand offer duty-free access for specific products originating from the Pacific Island Countries.
The Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement has been operational since 2007, to promote regional integration and moving towards wider integration with the global economy. Eight countries trade under PICTA: Cook Island, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Nauru, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Tonga are yet to utilise the agreement. Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) are yet to become parties, whilst New Caledonia and French Polynesia are able accede as per Article 27 of the Agreement.
The PICTA Trade in Services (TIS) Protocol was concluded in 2012 and ratified by four signatories (Samoa, Tuvalu, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Nauru) however, is yet to enter into force.
The Pacific Closer Economic Relations Plus Agreement was signed in Nuku’alofa in Tonga on 14 June 2017. Ten Forum Members are signatories: Australia and New Zealand and the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Three have ratified. PACER Plus covers goods, services and investment and is yet to enter into force.
4.Economic Partnership Agreement
The Economic Partnership Agreements are trade and development agreements negotiated between the Pacific ACP and the European Union. To date Papua New Guinea and Fiji have signed and ratified interim EPAs, with Samoa and Solomon Islands intending to accede.