The Pacific Island Countries currently face concerted pressure (from donor countries and international financial institutions) to ‘integrate into the global economy’ through implementing new free trade agreements. Free traders argue that the Pacific will benefit from cheaper imports, increased investment in the region and improvements in efficiency of Pacific business and service suppliers. However, it is widely acknowledged that trade liberalisation will have very real costs for societies and economies – in terms of lost government revenue, business closures and job losses, and undermined access to essential services. Governments will also lose important ‘policy space’ that can be used to stimulate development, and regulate trade and investment in the social interest.
This paper is intended to give Pacific civil society organisations (CSOs) the critical tools required to understand the push towards free trade in the Pacific, and to engage the process more effectively. This paper also offers some suggestions for coordinated CSO policy in relation to the push towards free trade in the Pacific.