Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

Trade negotiations and regional economic integration in the Pacific Islands Forum


When the Pacific Islands Forum was established in 1971, regional economic integration was high on the policy agenda. Over the four decades since, a political commitment to regional integration has waxed and waned. This paper explores past and present prospects for economic cooperation through the lens of regional trade negotiations. Into the new millennium, Pacific governments lobbied World Trade Organisation (WTO) members to recognise their trade-related challenges, and sought special treatment in trade negotiations with the EU and with Australia and New Zealand. Despite these efforts, current trade negotiations among all Forum members—to extend the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER-Plus)—look unlikely to result in unique measures intended to help Pacific states take advantage of international trade. In this context, consideration should be given to downscaling formal trade negotiations in favour of other regional trade policy initiatives.


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