Pacific Trade Deal

01 May 2017

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Largely unnoticed last week was the announcement of the Pacific Trade Deal designed to cut down trade barriers covering goods and services as well as reduce tariffs, boost tourism, and raise living standards in the 12 Pacific Island Nations are part of the deal with Australia and New Zealand. Included with the deal is a development package of NZ$78 million to boost the export capacity of the Pacific Islands.

The 12 Pacific Island nations participating in the deal are Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Economic growth in the Pacific will in turn assist both Australia’s and New Zealand’s economies. There are growing volumes of fresh fruit and vegetables being exported to the Pacific from New Zealand; while much of this currently ends up being eaten by tourists, there are some staples (such as potatoes) that are consumed by the residents of the Islands. In addition, the RSE scheme provides seasonal labour to New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industries, ensuring our continued productivity, but also providing much needed funds for economic development in the Pacific. 

There are also training programmes running in New Zealand during down times that teach the Pacific workers skills such as carpentry and out board motor repairs. Australia also has a similar scheme to the RSE; both schemes are for limited periods, with the workers returning back to the Pacific and their families, so the workers take their newly learned skills back to their communities - this is not migration.

Opening up trade is an important first step for developing economic prosperity in the Pacific, but key to generating true prosperity is transferring back to the Pacific people the ability and skills to capitalise on this opportunity. Therefore, the programme running in New Zealand upskilling the Pacific RSE seasonal workers (so that when they return home they have the ability to lift their Island’s economic performance) is a vital ingredient for the Trade Deal to succeed. This important “by-product” of the RSE scheme will in turn generate greater prosperity for New Zealand and is mutually beneficial.

 

-          Mike Chapman, CEO