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The Pacific Islands Forum is an inter-governmental organization which aims to enhance cooperation between the independent countries of the Pacific Oceanmarker and represent their interests. It was founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum. In 2000, the name was changed; Pacific Islands Forum is more inclusive of the Forum's Oceania-spanning membership of both north and south Pacific island countries and Australia.

The Forum's member states are: Australia, the Cook Islandsmarker, the Federated States of Micronesiamarker, Kiribatimarker, the Marshall Islandsmarker, Nauru, New Zealandmarker, Niuemarker, Palaumarker, Papua New Guineamarker, Samoamarker, the Solomon Islandsmarker, Tongamarker, Tuvalumarker, and Vanuatumarker. Since 2006, associate members territories are New Caledoniamarker and French Polynesiamarker. Fijimarker was suspended on 2 May 2009.

The decisions of the Forum are implemented by the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), which grew out of the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation (SPEC). As well as its role in harmonising regional positions on various political and policy issues, the Forum Secretariat has technical programmes in economic development, transport and trade. The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General is the permanent Chairman of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP).

New Zealand and Australia are much larger in population (with the exception of Papua New Guineamarker), and wealthier than the other small, poor, and in some cases outright impoverished island nations that make up the rest of the forum. They are significant aid donors and big markets for exports (for instance, through a concessional tariff deal on textiles exports from Fiji to Australia). Australia's population is around twice that of the other 15 members combined and its economy is more than five times larger. In Papua New Guinea (in Bougainvillemarker), Solomon Islands (2003-), Nauru (2004-) and Tonga (2006), New Zealand and Australian military and police forces have recently been part of a regional peacekeeping/stabilization operations. Such regional efforts are mandated by the Biketawa Declaration, which was adopted at the 31st Summit of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, held at Kiribati in October 2000.

History

From 5 to 7 August 1971, the first meeting of South Pacific Forum was initiated by New Zealand and held in Wellingtonmarker, with attendants of seven countries including the President of Nauru, the Prime Ministers of Western Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, the Premier of the Cook Islands, the Australian Minister for External Territories, and the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It was a private and informal discussion of a wide range of issues of common concern, concentrating on matters directly affecting the daily lives of the people of the islands of the South Pacific, devoting particular attention to trade, shipping, tourism, and education. Afterwards this meeting was held annually in member countries and areas in turn. In 1999, the 30th South Pacific Forum decided to transform into Pacific Islands Forum, with more extensive and formal way of discussion and organization. Immediately after the forum’s annual meeting at head of government level, the Post Forum Dialogue (PFD) is conducted at ministerial level with PFD development partners around the world.

Suspension of Fiji

In August 2008, the Forum threatened to suspend Fijimarker if the latter did not commit to holding a general election by March 2009. Subsequently, at a special leaders' meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum, held in Papua-New Guinea in January 2009, Forum leaders set a deadline of 1 May, by which date Fiji must set a date for elections before the end of the year. Fiji rejected the deadline. Consequently, on May 1, Fiji was suspended indefinitely from participation in the Forum. The suspension was enforced with immediate effect from 2 May 2009. Toke Talagi, the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Premier of Niuemarker, described the suspension as "also particularly timely given the recent disturbing deterioration of the political, legal and human rights situation in Fiji since April 10, 2009". He described Fiji as "a regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom" which he believed contravened membership of the Pacific Islands Forum. Talagi emphasised, however, that Fiji had not been expelled and that it would be welcomed back into the fold when it returned to the path of "constitutional democracy, through free and fair elections".

The 2009 suspension of Fiji marked the first time that a country had been suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in the history of the 38-year-old organization.

Main policies

The mission of Pacific Islands Forum is “to work in support of Forum member governments, to enhance the economic and social well-being of the people of the South Pacific by fostering cooperation between governments and between international agencies, and by representing the interests of Forum members in ways agreed by the Forum”.

Membership

Member states
(AU) (KI) (PW) (SB) (CK) (NR) (PG) (TO) (FM) (NZ) (MH) (TV) (NU) (WS) (VU)
Suspended members
(FJ) (suspended since May 1, 2009
Associate members Observers
(NC) (PF) (TK) (TL) (WF) Commonwealth Secretariat
For abbreviations, see ISO 3166-1.


Dialogue partners
(CN) (ID) (MY) (PH) (US)





The Republic of Chinamarker has asked to be recognised as an official dialogue partner of the Forum. That status is currently awarded to the People's Republic of Chinamarker. The two governments compete for diplomatic recognition in the Pacific.

Secretaries-General



Directors of the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation
  • Henry Naisali (Tuvalu) January 1986 – September 1988
  • Mahe Tupouniua (Tonga) January 1983 – January 1986
  • John Sheppard (Australia) (acting) 1982 – January 1983
  • Gabriel Gris (Papua New Guinea) 1980 – 1982 (died in office)
  • Mahe Tupouniua (Tonga) November 1972 – 1980


Institutions and legal framework

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat was established initially as a ‘Trade Bureau’ in 1972 and later became the South Pacific Bureau for Economic Co-operation (SPEC). The name South Pacific Forum Secretariat was approved by member governments in 1988 and changed to Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in 2000.

There are four divisions in the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and each of these divisions has direct responsibility for a range of programs designed to improve the capacity of the Forum member countries and to co-ordinate action on matters of common interest:
  1. Development and Economic Policy
  2. Trade and Investment
  3. Political, International and Legal Affairs
  4. Corporate Services


Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement

The Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) aims to establish a free-trade area between fourteen of the Pacific Islands Forum countries. As of November 2006, it had been signed by twelve countries (not signed by Marshall Islandsmarker or Palaumarker per PICTA status report): Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu. As of March 2008, six countries had announced that domestic arrangements had been made enabling them to trade under the agreement: Cook Islandsmarker, Fijimarker, Niuemarker, Samoamarker, Solomon Islandsmarker, Vanuatumarker.

After entry into force, countries commit to remove tariffs on most goods by 2021. As of April 2008, The Forum Island Countries are also negotiating an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union. It is important to note that the PICTA discussed here covers only trade of goods. As of April 2008, there is an ongoing negotiation to design and agree on a protocol to include trade in services and the temporary movement of natural persons (a broader concept than the GATS's Mode 4).

Melanesian Spearhead Group

Melanesian Spearhead Group members
The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Preferential Trade Agreement is a trade treaty governing the four Melanesian states of Vanuatumarker, Papua New Guineamarker, the Solomon Islandsmarker and recently, Fijimarker. The MSG Trade Agreement signed in 1993 is a sub-regional trade treaty established to foster and accelerate economic development through trade relations and provide a political framework for regular consultations and review on the status of the Agreement, with a view to ensuring that trade both in terms of exports and imports is undertaken in a genuine spirit of Melanesian Solidarity and is done on a Most Favoured National (MFN) basis.

The MSG Trade Agreement is General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) consistent and has recently been approved and accorded recognition by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Committee on Regional Arrangements to be compatible and meeting the requirements of Article 24 of the GATT/WTO Agreement. This Agreement covers over 180 tariff lines of the Harmonised Systems of Customs Tariff Code and is consistent with agreed trade rules and obligations. Negotiations are held regularly between the leaders of the four countries to consider the progress and developments of the MSG Trade Agreement.

The MSG Trade Agreement is, by and large, the most effective sub-regional economic cooperation arrangement between the four countries and is likely to include issues of Intellectual Property Rights and Trade-in-Services as we approach the new millennium. Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are members of the WTO. The Government of Vanuatu is also currently negotiating its accession with member governments of the Multilateral Trading System for membership into the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The MSG countries have the potential to trade in over 200 products free of fiscal duty. The MSG countries are also spearheading the MSG Free Trade Area as a nucleus for progressing trade liberalisation in the region, as a forerunner for a proposed Forum Island Country (FIC) Trade Agreement.

The MSG Trade Agreement entered into effect on 22 July 1993 through the efforts of Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. At the 6th Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Trade and Economic Officials’ Meeting on 16 April 1997 in Honiaramarker, the Fiji delegation indicated its willingness to accede to the MSG Trade Agreement. This initiative was endorsed at the 1997 MSG Leaders Summit. Fiji became a formal member of the MSG Trade Agreement on 14 April 1998. The 9th MSG Trade & Economic Officials meeting was held in Papua New Guinea on 29 & 30 November 2000. This meeting saw the acceptance of the expansion of the MSG Product Schedule tariff headings from four digit to six digits, thereby facilitating MSG trade by removing the ambiguity in product identification at Customs points of entry. The commitment among members to progress the MSG Trade Agreement towards WTO compliance, via negative listing by 2003/2005, was also reinforced.

Recent works

An "open skies" policy has been under work by a number of nations. The Pacific Islands Air Services Agreement or PIASA would allow member nations to have more access for their airlines to other member countries. To date there have been 10 signatories Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu while only 6 have ratified the agreement. These six are Cook Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

At the 19-20 August 2008 Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Niue, the leaders discussed Pacific Plan priorities including, "fisheries, energy, trade and economic integration, climate change and transport, in addition to information and communication technology, health, education, and good governance." Leaders also discussed impacts of climate change and adopted the Niue Declaration on Climate Change. Restoration of democratic governance in Fiji was discussed as were consequences should the interim government fail to meet established deadlines. Regional assistance to the Solomon Islands and Nauru was discussed, followed by discussion of radioactive contamination in the Marshall Islands from US government tests. Regional institutional framework issues and WTO Doha round developments were discussed, followed by discussion of country-initiatives and the Pacific Region Infrastructure Facility launched 19 August 2008 to provide up to AU$ 200 million over four years to help improve infrastructure in Kiribati, Sāmoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The United Nations announced that it would partner with Sāmoa to develop an Inter-Agency Climate Change Centre to help Pacific island nations combat the impacts of climate change in the region.

Common currency

There have been calls to create a common currency in the Pacific. It is suggested that the Australian dollar be used by the island nations as it is the strongest reserve in the region. Some feel that the common currency should be different from that of Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. A number of countries in the Pacific already use the currency of one of the nations listed above. Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, East Timor and the Marshall Islands are currently using the United States Dollar. Nauru, Kiribati, and Tuvalu are using the Australian Dollar. Tokelau, Cook Islands, Niue, and the Pitcairn Islands use the New Zealand Dollar. There is also a strong European influence in Oceania. The last British outpost in the Pacific, Pitcairn Islandmarker, uses the pound. Plus, the French territories of New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna, and French Polynesia have been using the CFP Franc, which is pegged to the euro. Among the smaller island nations, Tonga and Samoa issue their own currency, the paʻanga and the Samoan Tala.

Prospects

There has been a call from within both the Australian and New Zealand business communities to extend the CER (Closer Economic Relations) to other Pacific island nations, moving towards a single market and allowing the free movement of people and goods. See Pacific Union.

See also



References

  1. The Niue Declaration on Climate Change is Appendix B of this document.
  2. "Solomon’s Prime Minister says all Forum members backed suspension threat", Radio New Zealand International, August 24, 2008
  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Portal:Oceania&oldid=234356903
  4. "Chair of Pacific Islands Forum says Fiji has been suspended", Radio New Zealand International, May 1, 2009
  5. "Taiwan calls on Pacific Forum to allow it to be a proper Dialogue Partner", Radio New Zealand International, August 25, 2008
  6. Full PICTA text
  7. PICTA status report
  8. "Solomon Islands Ready to Trade Under PICTA", Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
  9. "Vanuatu ready to trade under PICTA", People's Daily Online
  10. Pacific Trade in Services Negotiations - First Round, Pacific Island Forum Secretariat
  11. Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) trade agreement
  12. "Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Pacific leaders were losing patience with Fiji's interim government. He said Australia will mobilize any resources necessary to restore democracy to Fiji."


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