The Trade Ministers from the Pacific Islands Forum, gathered in Fiji for their annual meeting, have highlighted the importance of developing a regional strategy on labour mobility in the Pacific. They stressed the welfare of workers from Pacific Island countries as a key area of concern during their two-day meeting at the Forum Secretariat in Suva.
Esala Nayasi, the Forum Deputy Secretary-General, underscored the significance of the labour mobility issue, stating, “There’s a lot that members have to discuss.”
Fiji’s Minister for Trade and Deputy Prime Minister, Manoa Kamikamica, acknowledged that while the issue was not discussed in great detail, there was a consensus that comprehensive assessments must be conducted at the country level by Forum members. He explained that these assessments would inform the proposal for a regional strategy on labor mobility.
Kamikamica further stated, “The labour mobility strategy will include focused discussions around the welfare of our workers, particularly regarding wage deductions and disposable income.”
Nayasi revealed that the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat would advance this issue in the coming months through comprehensive assessments, involving various stakeholders, including the PACER PLUS implementation unit based in Apia.
A significant topic on the Trade Ministers’ agenda was the 13th World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference (MC 13), scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi in February 2024.
Kamikamica announced that the ministers had agreed that Forum WTO members would take strong leadership roles in concluding the fisheries subsidy agreement on overcapacity and overfishing during MC 13. He highlighted the importance of this agreement in protecting stocks and ensuring the sustainability of fisheries.
“We know that Samoa will be chairing or leading the discussions in the ACP (the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group), and Fiji has declared its full support for Samoa. We will ensure that the Pacific’s position is clear during the discussions in Abu Dhabi,” Kamikamica added.
The WTO Agreement on Fisheries Subsidies, adopted at the 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2022, aims to prohibit harmful fisheries subsidies, contributing to ocean sustainability. To become operational, the agreement requires two-thirds of members to deposit their “instruments of acceptance” with the WTO.
Kamikamica expressed concern about subsidies allowing larger countries to conduct subsidised operations in Pacific waters, resulting in the absence of local fleets. He drew attention to the Pacific’s need to voice its concerns and ensure that subsidies are brought under control.
In addition to labor mobility and fisheries subsidies, Fiji also tabled a proposal for developing an enhanced connectivity strategy for the Pacific. Kamikamica explained that this strategy aims to improve aviation and marine transport connectivity in the region, aligning with the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy’s goals. Fiji is committed to collaborating with member states to maximise the benefits of a well-connected region for island states in the coming year.