A Pro-development Trade Model
The right to development is really important. What does that mean? It’s allowing developing countries to prioritise poverty reduction over rights of foreign companies. It means allowing developing countries to support their nascent industries so they can get to the stage where they can produce manufactured goods and be able to compete internationally. What’s happened under trade liberalisation and structural adjustment is that when developing countries have tried to start up their new industries they have been flooded with imports from overseas that have wiped out their fledgling businesses. … There’s been blatant hypocrisy – a kind of ‘do as we say, not as we did’. All of the OECD countries used protectionism during their development, as did the East Asian countries – a combination of protection and state intervention.
Barry’s talk start 11 minutes and 20 seconds into the video
Claire: Since the WTO ministerial meeting in 1999 when you saw huge protests on the streets of Seattle, multilateral trade discussions and negotiations have seen a sharp division between developed and developing countries, or the Global North and Global South. The WTO’s attempted development round was pretty much a failure with developing countries declaring this was no level playing field. What do you see as the main challenge or challenges in the free trade agenda, and what needs to change in the approach to negotiating multilateral and bilateral trade agreements to genuinely support development in these countries? Do you see trade as this overarching frame necessary for achieving that?
Barry: The historical context is really important and I think we do history really badly on some of these issues. The lead-in to Seattle was the campaign against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment. The attempt to shove investment rights into a trade agreement is what Seattle was all about. While we sit here and talk about the TPPA and agreements like that, there’s a long history of multinational lobbyists pushing these rules, starting actually in the 1940s. So we need to understand there’s been a long strategy to try to get investment rights into trade agreements.
The historical context for Seattle was also what you touched on yesterday Claire, which was the aftermath of the structural adjustment programmes where developing countries had high levels of debt pushed on them, interest rates rose, they became severely indebted, the IMF stepped in and said we’ll help you – but on the basis that you open up your economy and completely liberalise your trade and undertake government austerity measures and other forms of extreme pro-liberalisation measures. Basically they pushed developing countries to do an extreme and rapid form of liberalisation, so by the time they got to Seattle they were actually pretty angry.
One of the misconceptions is that Seattle collapsed because of the protests on the streets. It wasn’t that at all. I was in the negotiations at that stage and it was because the developing countries said they would not accept the agenda pushed by the rich nations. The African countries stood up for the first time and said we reject the agenda that you are trying to foist on us and we do have some power. The background was that previously under the GATT there had been a stitch-up of trade agreements and developing countries had no rights due to extremely abusive processes. Finally, with the establishment of the WTO they were meant to have some rights in trade negotiations, and they started to insist on those rights. This assertion of their rights collapsed Seattle, and collapsed the ministerial at Cancun four years later over the same issues, which was an attempt to put investment and other issues into trade negotiations. That’s an important context.
We are talking here about alternatives. At the risk of laying out a high-level framework, I want to lay out four issues that I think need to be changed from a developing country perspective on trade. First, we need to deal with the core development issues that didn’t happen under trade negotiations under what was meant to be the Doha Development Agenda – the ‘development’ conveniently got lost out of the agenda. That was an attempt to say that the trade rules have been skewed in favour of the rich nations, and developing nations have faced adverse terms of trade. The poorer you were as a country, the higher the trade barriers you faced. To some extent that’s still the case because textiles and agriculture are still the most protected sectors. Aside from raw materials, these are the products that many developing countries are able to export. So they faced those problems of unfinished business around making the basic rules of trade fairer for poorer countries and especially for poorer producers. There is a whole agenda of related issues, including reforming the decision-making systems that allow the perpetration of those unfair rules.
As a second area, we’ve talked a bit about space for development. In terms of the dynamics of development, the right to development is really important. What does that mean? It’s allowing developing countries to prioritise poverty reduction over rights of foreign companies. It means allowing developing countries to support their nascent industries so they can get to the stage where they can produce manufactured goods and be able to compete internationally. What’s happened under trade liberalisation and structural adjustment is that when developing countries have tried to start up their new industries they have been flooded with imports from overseas that have wiped out their fledgling businesses. So they’ve found it very hard to get a foothold.
How did developed countries ever do that? They protected their own industries when they were developing. The US had the highest rate of protection in the world for a century. There’s been blatant hypocrisy – a kind of ‘do as we say, not as we did’. All of the OECD countries used protectionism during their development, as did the East Asian countries – a combination of protection and state intervention. We all know the stories of how the East Asian countries developed. It wasn’t ‘let the market rip’. It was very much a process of state intervention. There are also issues about capital controls being especially important for developing countries as well.
A third issue is that developing countries are especially impacted on by the lack of enforceable rules on multinationals. There are three basic areas. One is tax havens and tax avoidance. There is good work that Oxfam and many others are doing on that, but it still strips capital out of developing countries. There’s the lack of fair competition policies, allowing predatory pricing by multinationals to wipe out competitors in developing countries. And then there are issues like the impacts of climate change that are causing major problems for developing countries.
Finally, as well as having international rules on multinationals, I think we need international rules on the accountability of governments towards their citizens. This is the notion of a social charter for governments that has been strongly resisted by governments, rich and poor alike. But governments need to be accountable to their people. We ought to be inverting the whole discussion around trade agreements to ask ‘when are we going to get the agreements on multinationals. When are we going to get agreements that states are accountable to their citizens’. That’s my agenda for change.
Claire: Do you think that trade agreements could be made to comply with international human rights laws and principles?
Barry: As others have said over the past two days, not without a fundamental reordering of the hierarchy. At the moment, when human rights laws and legislation have specific provisions – and many don’t because they remain as principles – they are unenforceable and able to be overridden by trade agreements. We need to look at changing the hierarchy of those rules, and ensure the democratic space for countries to determine their own human rights standards that may be different, but within the parameters of international laws.
Claire: What could be the ways of tracking the effect of development aid through the SDGs?
Barry: There’s some 169 indicators proposed for the 17 SDGs, and a few thousand targets. It can very quickly descend into a tick box exercise. Questions like the incompatibility of TRIPS+ with the SDGs just shows the incoherence of government policies towards the SDGS. On one hand, you have trade negotiators who are trying to give rights to foreign multinationals that will make medicines more expensive. On the other hand, you’ve got the SDGs that say we’re going to deal with health issues for the poorest in society. By comparison the Millennium Development Goals sat there on a shelf and were completely useless in the same way until a grass roots civil society campaign started to hold governments to account for the MDGs. Then they started to gain some power, but only when a concerted civil society campaign decided they were a tool that could be used for government accountability. Can the indicators for the SDGs be used to hold governments to account? For some countries, there are some fledgling movements trying to do that, but the campaign hasn’t had the same push as the MDGs had. The millennium campaign run by the UN was important because it empowered grass roots civil society to get involved with the governments on that kind of coherence. We haven’t seen that kind of campaign in the SDGs internationally, and certainly not in NZ yet, have we.
In relation to the language of partnership, there’s another reminder from history. There was the Paris agreement on aid effectiveness and the Accra Declaration and a whole process around how to change the relationship between donors and so-called recipient countries into a partnership relationship. This was an attempt to correct some of the imbalances in power, and to promote accountability for aid programmes to civil society and the people for each of the societies, donor and developing country. That agenda has gone nowhere and has been sidelined. Having left Oxfam in 2014, I am now a bit cynical about the role of donors in the aid programme, exacerbated by my anger over the push by Australia and NZ for the PACER+ agreement. The dynamics haven’t changed. Donors are still pursuing their self-interest, their political interest, primarily through aid programmes, rather than being really responsive to the needs of developing countries. And developing countries themselves are not being adequately responsive to their societies in framing priorities. There’s a dual responsibility there. It’s not just about forming the perfect partnership, but implementing equitable principles that partnerships should be based on.
Trade can be quite a powerful tool to achieve the broad SDGs. But as we know our current trading system is broken, doesn’t work for us all, and has left people behind. This is the issue of power: who has it and who doesn’t have it. Those who have political and economic power are a small number of people who have been making the decisions and shutting the door on the rest of us. The question for me is how do we transform these power dynamics? This gives rise to two further questions we have been grappling with over the past 2 days: do we fight for a seat at the decision-making table as it stands or do we go away and create our own table; second, do we focus on the local and having a strong place to stand, or do we go global, like Russel Norman was arguing, and create a global community of earthlings?
Jo Spratt’s presentation starts at 1 minute into the video
Claire Slatter: After 40 years of promise of trade led development through free trade and 20 years of the MDGs to tackle poverty and inequality in developing countries, we still have a problem of widespread poverty and growing inequality among nations and within developing countries, even in the context of rising incomes in parts of the South. Now we have the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which are meant to address the remaining problems of development with all of the new development challenges that have emerged since the MDGs. What needs to happen with free trade agreements to ensure that the SDGs are attainable, bearing in mind there are responsibilities for developed countries as well in the SDGs?
Jo: As you say, the SDGs are about all of us. No longer is it about developed and developing, it’s all of us on this planet together. In its broadest conception the SDGs are 17 goals that encompass life on earth. They are about building a world where all people’s dignity is upheld. Where we leave no one behind and have a healthy planet to sustain us. So, really we’ve been talking about the SDGs for the past 2 days.
Although we haven’t really talked much about the trade impacts and repercussions for lower income countries, I’m going to take a broader global perspective and talk about power. A trade system that puts people and planet first is a trade system that works for people in NZ or people in the Pacific or anywhere across the world. And it is a global trade system. Trade is key to achieving the SDGs because it’s what we do as humans. If you think of trade as the exchange between us, we have always done that and we always will. Trade is also very linked with the food we eat, the buildings we live in, how we get about.
So trade can be quite a powerful tool to achieve the broad SDGs. But as we know our current trading system is broken, doesn’t work for us all, and has left people behind. This is the issue of power: who has it and who doesn’t have it. Those who have political and economic power are a small number of people who have been making the decisions and shutting the door on the rest of us.
The question for me is how do we transform these power dynamics? This gives rise to two further questions we have been grappling with over the past 2 days: do we fight for a seat at the decision-making table as it stands or do we go away and create our own table; second, do we focus on the local and having a strong place to stand, or do we go global, like Russel Norman was arguing, and create a global community of earthlings?
To begin to transform power dynamics it’s not either/or, it is both. We need to be doing all of this simultaneously. We need people influencing the decision-makers, policy advocacy people trying to push the current agenda as far as we can. We need people on the streets, citizen activism trying to hold governments to account. And we need people who are taking those creative, transformative approaches and trying to think about real alternatives. Some of which we heard about yesterday, like the Southern Initiative, and Annie Newman’s new living wage campaign group. Building microcosms of inspiration so we can have these alternatives to hold up and showcase when the opportunity comes to really expand them. We need local action and global action because this is a global system. Decisions made in Washington DC have an impact on what happens in the streets of Auckland or the shores of Tuvalu or the factories of Dhaka or the deserts of Chad. It’s a global system. So we need to work locally to have a solid place to stand from and have examples of what works, but also globally to change that system from both levels.
As well as both/and, we also need to build relationships between these different sites and types of action, so these relationships build up a network, an alternative system. This hui’s an important contribution to that, hearing people coming from different perspectives, doing different things in different ways and sharing ideas, and hopefully building connections we can keep building on. For me this is how we change the system. Creating a web that pushes and pulls our current system to make it as good as we possibly can, while eroding it, and building up an alternative system so that when the current system is eroded enough we have an alternative ready to roll out.
So for me the question is not so much what a progressive trade agreement looks like as how we can change and engage with transforming the power dynamics that currently maintain the status quo.
Claire: From your experience with Oxfam, which has taken a critical perspective on trade in the sense of wanting it to be made more equitable, and what Sanya Reid Smith shared with us about countries that are making changes in the way trade positions are made public, is there a way you can politically use the SDGs to challenge the secrecy basis on which many of the negotiations take place and the nature of trade agreements themselves, for example saying you can’t achieve the SDGs with the constraints these agreements put on countries?
Jo: I think you can. To some degree it depends upon how much political engagement there is with the SDGs, and it is a normative agreement so it’s all about global peer pressure. They do provide quite a solid argument as a tool for these over-arching goals. But I think the SDG process also gives us a firm grounding as well, because that was the most consultative process the UN had ever gone through. It was hugely inclusive, relatively for the UN. That highlights a recognition that these processes need to be inclusive, and what I’d like to see that can be put forward as a global model for engagement and discussion. I see trade agreements as about making sure civil society is at the negotiating table right at the inception and there’s a variety of perspectives at the inception. We can get quite technical about chapters on everything, but it’s actually about the process and trying to make that process far more inclusive. If you’re just going to get the door shut in your face it’s hard, there’s a tension there. Come and tell me what you think about how we can mobilise more people to engage in these conversations, and get that countervailing power working.
Claire: Do you think the 11 chapters of the TPPA that affect tobacco control policies will help achieve SDG 3 on implementing the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.
Jo: No. Tobacco should not exist. I don’t know why it is even allowed in trade agreements.
Claire: What could be the ways of tracking the effect of development aid through the SDGs?
Jo: Monitoring aid and how it’s used to achieve the SDGs could be a powerful monitoring tool for us in NZ to use to hold the government to account for SDG17, which is the global partnership which includes aid. In terms of shaping an entire aid programme to fund the SDGs, my preference is for countries to respond to country SDG plans and what they decide is important for them. Certainly as a broad concept around the broad economic, social and environment pillars of the SDGs, the aid programme needs to have a solid balance across those areas.
Claire: What effect do you think contemporary discourse on ‘partnerships’ has on the power dynamics of developing and developed countries?
Jo: If you mean implementing the principles of the new partnership model of brokering and facilitating partnerships to overcome power asymmetries it could be positive. As I understand it, you start by talking about your shared values and goals, then come to some kind of shared understanding of everyone’s perspective on it. That’s a really positive process, starting on a relationship where you understand each other and can move forward collectively from that point. So it’s positive if it’s done properly and doesn’t get captured in the rhetoric and not implemented in practice. Then you have to take into account the existing power relations and whether some of those conversations are possible. It’s hard. These things aren’t easy, but we have to try.
The Pacific Islands
Free trade has been a big problem for Pacific Island countries. As you know a number of Pacific Island countries have nothing to export. Their economies are already open. So how much more open do you want these economies to be? … This is my strong objection to the one size fits all model, and the level playing field that these free trade agreements are about. It is idiotic for anyone to say that these small Pacific Island developing states have the same capacity to trade with a global giant like China. It’s an absolute nonsense. But that’s the way it seems to have been argued during the neoliberal phase. … Small island states now have some leverage because they can go to China for a more sympathetic hearing compared, unfortunately, to what Australia and NZ the international financial institutions and some other countries have done in relations with Pacific Island countries. .. I think that’s being powerful
Vijay’s talk starts 21 minutes into the video.
Claire Slatter: As a development scholar and Pacific Island specialist, the Pacific Island countries have always been seen as small, isolated, resource poor and powerless. Is this how people and states in the Pacific see themselves today? What are the distinct development challenges for Pacific Islands as small island developing states now and into the future, and can these be addressed through the SDGs or an alternative and progressive trade strategy?
Vijay. The response to the first question is yes and no. There is enormous diversity in the countries of the Pacific in terms of size, resource endowments and human capacities. Some are not really isolated small and remote. A country like Papua New Guinea is bigger in terms of physical size and population than NZ and has a huge amount of natural resources. On the other hands we have these small island economies, places like Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru, Marshall Islands, that are indeed small, isolated and very dependent countries. The potential for development in these countries is extremely variable.
A major challenge is climate change. Generally speaking we talk about the atoll states of Kiribati, Tuvalu and Marshall Islands, which have relatively smaller populations than those larger countries that have huge deltas and coastal plains where the majority of the people are settled. And many of these places are below 3 metres, like the atoll states. So the impact of rising sea levels would also affect these countries very seriously. Of course we also now have extreme weather conditions. We had cyclone Winston, which was a category 4-5 cyclone. The intensity of some of these extreme weather events is increasing and becoming more extensive.
Most of these island countries have been reliant on primary production and extractive industries – agricultural activities, mining and fisheries. Unfortunately the relationships as to who benefits from these activities have been very unequal. We also caught the structural disease of the reforms under the neoliberal model that was pushed very hard in the 1980s and 1990s, particularly by Australia and NZ in conjunction with the international financial institutions. This disease has affected us very seriously. Inequality has increased and the level of poverty in these islands has risen. In terms of the Gini co-efficient, Pacific Island countries have the worst index regarding inequality compared to South East Asian countries.
With respect to the SDGs as a possible framework within which we can address some of these problems, I’m a bit cynical. SDG 14 is to conserve and have sustainable use of the oceans. Like the MDGs the 17 SDG goals are noble goals, global goals, but I am cynical on the grounds that it is business as usual. What has really changed? What I see is Papua New Guinea, Fiji and the Cook Islands have now moved towards providing concessions for deep sea mining exploration. Papua New Guinea, which has the worst record for terrestrial mining in terms of environmental and social impact, has become the first country to start deep sea mining.
I don’t want to be altogether negative, because we human beings have certainly made huge progress. For example with regards to drift net fishing. There has been a ban that has had a very positive impact. Then we all worked together to reduce the ozone hole. I don’t want to be a complete naysayer; but I don’t want to join the chorus waving the flags for SDGs.
Free trade has been a big problem for Pacific Island countries. As you know a number of Pacific Island countries have nothing to export. Their economies are already open. So how much more open do you want these economies to be? In regard to that, as Barry Coates mentioned, the main source of revenue was taxation through tariffs at the border. You take these away, then our middle class and upper class don’t have the income levels to provide revenue. Yet we have adopted these one-size-fits-all types of tax reform where the VAT is now very commonplace in the Islands. The system that suited us was Sparteca – the South Pacific trade agreement where we had preferential access to the Australasian market and there were similar arrangements for the American Trust territories with the mainland market. All of that got eroded and finally removed altogether because they are not compliant with WTO rules. This is my strong objection to the one size fits all model, and the level playing field that these free trade agreements are about. It is idiotic for anyone to say that these small Pacific Island developing states have the same capacity to trade with a global giant like China. It’s an absolute nonsense. But that’s the way it seems to have been argued during the neoliberal phase.
Finally, I want to say that in terms of confidence building and the dependency mentality, a lot has changed from the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s because of the China factor in the Pacific. Small island states now have some leverage because they can always go to China for a more sympathetic hearing compared, unfortunately, to what Australia and NZ the international financial institutions and some other countries have done in relations with Pacific Island countries. So that has been a factor in terms of leverage. Fiji has led the charge with the look North policy – not necessarily for positive reasons following the 2006 coup but many other Pacific island countries are following suit and I think that’s being powerful.
Structurally some things have not changed in the Island countries. Migration and remittances remain very important, especially for those countries that don’t have any significant export commodities. The smallest island states have been renamed the large ocean states, and there’s some truth in that. There’s big talk about the blue economy. Structurally the issues of huge power imbalances between North and Small and between Small island states and the bigger states is still there. As we were discussing earlier, it’s important for some collectives to gel together to push common objectives. In this regard the Small Island Developing States group in the UN, and their work together with the alliances of small island states, is now making some difference. SDG14 is due to the assertions of small island states and the big push regarding climate change is also coming via the small island states advocacy. So there are some positives there. But the business about power asymmetries still remain.
Claire: The World Bank has stopped using the two categories of developing and developed countries since their 2016 World Development Report. Is this just about categorisation and naming? Or might abandoning the term and category of developing countries impact on development responsibilities of developed states.
Vijay: I disagree with this change in categorisation. The Bank can use income-based technologies, but it’s not historical and it’s not holistic. It takes away the historical context of colonialism and disadvantages that these former colonised countries have. I invite people to read Jason Hickle’s works on this dimension. Although in appearance there is some convergence, the point is that the power imbalances between North and the group of South countries is not captured by the income-based categorisation. China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico don’t wield power commensurate to the changing economic circumstances in the global state compared to European countries and the United States.
Claire: How can countries like Fiji meet the SDGs on something like universal health care when the World Bank is pushing them to private hospitals. Actually, what Fiji is moving towards is public private partnerships (PPPs) in two cases. That may be worse, because the investor comes it, the government signs a contract, and basically guarantees they get the profit they expect to get.
Vijay: You answered the question already. The problem is that the per capita income in Fiji is still below USD8000 a year, with as many as 70% of our people earning less that FJD20,000 a year, which is about USD5000. So once you bring these kinds of PPPs then people will probably have huge problems affording access to health services. We don’t do enough in the area of public health and preventive health, so your problems with NCDs, like other Pacific countries, is escalating. Under these circumstances you want have universal public health care at all.
Yvonne Underhill-Sem (32 minutes 20 seconds)
Associate Professor of Development Studies, Faculty of Arts, The University of Auckland
Claire Slatter: Pacific Island countries have looked at free trade agreements as a way of securing labour mobility commitments from their developing country trading partners. They initially did this during negotiations on an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU and later with PACER+. This was to address problems of high unemployment and limited job opportunities in their home countries. Neither of those agreements included labour mobility. But we have had NZ and Australia initiate labour employment schemes for Pacific Island countries. There have been some problems, more in Australian than NZ scheme. How significant are these schemes in your view in contributing to Pacific Island countries? How can their development impact be strengthened? Are there possibilities of transfer of skills, some form of training so what they learn during these periods of offshore employment are useful back home?
Yvonne Underhill-Sem: It’s been great over the past two days hearing the bigger picture. There are 5 words that I want you to keep in mind: refugees, rugby, limes, bananas, and Maseratis. Last week I was in Honiara for the Pacific Labour Mobility annual meeting. It is part of the PACER+, in that there is an agreement to have this annual meeting. The first one was in Christchurch where civil society researchers were not invited. It was run by MFAT. I tried to get to the second one, and I went in as a “bona fide researcher”, although I had a few other connections as well. I managed to get there in a very difficult kind of way. They allowed me to flip into the Pacific caucus – I am from the Cook Islands, Niue and NZ so it’s not difficult for me to decide I could sit in this space to discuss labour mobility and how it works for Pacific countries.
What was notable about that was there is no organising framework for Pacific Island countries to say what is our position on this. Instead there was a lot of discussion around what they called first mover advantage. What this meant was that smaller countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu were really trying to protect the possibilities for their citizens going elsewhere against countries like Vanuatu and Solomon Islands, in particular, as well as Fiji.
So the space was there. But it was a space we didn’t really know how to use. That was partly because everybody was bought and paid for by Australia at that time. They had a bilateral lined up already with Australia and NZ. They had Australian employers sitting on the edges saying ‘come and work in my sector’. So it was all set up in such a way that the Pacific Island countries had no structure. There was a record of the meeting that had been written prior to the meeting. When we picked that up we said ‘well, that doesn’t say anything’. I have been asking for the record of the meeting and still haven’t seen that record. I have been asking at many different levels – MFAT, DFAT, Pacific colleagues – can we have a record of that meeting. There’s no record of that meeting any longer.
This year they had it in Honiara, which was another interesting space. The person in the Solomon Islands who was organising it, Collin Beck, became the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the week we were there. He is very well known in the Pacific space. We were talking about what we wanted as an outcome. By an hour before the end of the last day we had an outcome document that had been written by somebody, we spent one hour discussing what does this mean, where will it go? They wanted to have a mechanism whereby these could be discussed, which effectively admitted they didn’t have a mechanism. So Collin Beck is now in a very good position to follow that through.
Sitting around the table with the Australian and NZ employers who employ these workers is not the nicest conversation you have – when people say ‘what we need to talk about is how to deal with the breeders’, because that’s the big problem – we have too many breeders and not enough workers. I’ll leave it to you to think of what that was about. But these are the good employers. These are the ones who come to this meeting at their own cost to say we need more Pacific workers. At the same time the Pacific companies are there and they are competing against each other in order to get into these particular markets. So it’s a very difficult kind of space. I kept thinking about the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA). I know the difficulties with PICTA, but it was a space where Pacific Island Countries didn’t have Australia and NZ in the room.
I don’t know what the momentum needs to be to get the Pacific Islands to think about it. We had 2 days to think about labour mobility. The day after that, all of us who were talking about labour mobility left the country and all the trade people came. On the Friday they talked about PACER+. There was no discussion between the labour mobility people, who do the organisation of getting people into and out of the country, and the people who are negotiating the trade agreement. This is one of the difficulties we have when we are trying to discuss the issue.
Without doubt for many workers within the region it’s a really good thing to have an opportunity to come to NZ or Australia. There are many success stories about that. Of course, those success stories were brought into our discussion last week. I have spoken to many of them. If people are able to save $5000 when they’ve come from the highlands of Papua New Guinea to Australia, I don’t have an alternative way to give them $5000. There is definitely an opportunity. I have been trying to argue that the triple-win framework, which is continually pulled out by donors in particular, needs to shift to the triple win-loss – and it’s a quadruple win-loss. There may be even more dimensions. One of the dimensions that’s missed out are all the ancillary services that bring people from one country to another: the transport operators, the people who build the accommodation, the people that feed them, the people who do the pastoral care. We’ve also got to look at that group as well.
So there is definitely an impact from seasonable labour mobility in the Pacific. In Tonga one in four of every man between 19 and 45 has been involved in seasonal mobility, that’s 25%. What does that mean in terms of crops that have been grown in Tonga, in terms of the social tensions in families and communities, in terms of the domestic markets. It’s quite significant.
Similarly, in Kiribati where they have had their seafarer movement for over 10 years now. Some research is showing that only when the children of the seafarers reach a certain age can they speak about what it’s like when their father came back after 9 months. It’s pretty grim reading that you really want to understand that. Also in Kiribati, where they pride themselves in training women to participate in this whole project, there have been some very distressing stories. Eight young women were trained to be on a cruise ship in the householding area. Of the eight on a Norweigan cruise ship, seven became pregnant and the other one committed suicide.
So there is something dreadful happening in some of these spaces. Clearly, we need more attention. But to shine the light on that we have to deal with the way that the Pacific governments are responding to the call from NZ and Australian employers to ‘come work with me’. For the chance to have economic rights, they trade off their social and cultural rights.
There are lots of things we can do in terms of assessing prior learning and operationally in terms of ratcheting up wage rates every time they come here. But there is the big picture stuff we need to look at as well. How we move in both directions is a bit of a challenge.
We cannot forget refugees. These are also migrants in NZ. I’m talking about Nauru here. It is a Pacific problem that has been caused outside our region and we really need to do something about it. Rugby – if people haven’t seen the Tongan flags flying, we’ve probably got all those Tongan workers have come from around the world. Limes – this is Niue language week. Limes are one of the largest exports from Niue to NZ. Maybe 5 or 6 boxes. It speaks to Vijay’s point – you can’t make an economy based on limes. Bananas – anyone read the papers about the first time that we’ve had Samoan bananas imported into the NZ economy, and the NZ market for bananas is valued at something like $150 million. We’ve had the first 500 cartons from Samoa. We should be celebrating that? But why only in 2018? So there’s a long way we can go with that.
And lastly Maseratis. APEC in PNG, where the hospitals are out of drugs, the teachers are not getting paid, there’s a large number of Maseratis that have been imported from some dealer in Sri Lanka to take people around Port Moresby on the new roads that were built for the APEC meeting coming up – there are also Bentleys in there. Very depressing.
One specific challenge: I would like to see all of us learning Maori fluently so we can have this conversation in Maori. Secondly, we also need to learn one of the Pacific languages so we can have a conversation in another language as well.
Claire: What are the possibilities for longer term settlement for at least some Pacific Islanders in NZ, knowing the importance of remittances back to families? Also should we be concerned about the potential impacts on Pacific economies of resource loss.
Yvonne: First, there are a number of visa categories for Pacific Islanders into NZ already. They don’t seem to be working particularly well. One I think is quite useful is a permanent one that requires them to get a job here in the first 3 months. The idea is to encourage them to work in a rural area and stay there. That’s a bit undersubscribed and can certainly be strengthened.
The other one is about training. There was a wonderful opportunity in Christchurch when there was a shortage; they recruited a lot of builders post-earthquake and put a call out for builders in the Pacific. This is pretty close to when hurricane Winston happened. At the very same time you needed builders in Fiji, NZ is putting a call out for builders to come to NZ. There were some 200 applicants for that call. Of them, about 20 came from Fiji. In order to employ them in NZ they developed a useful technique of assessing prior learning. When you don’t have the qualifications that you can put on a bit of paper, there is a process where you can assess prior learning. I think there’s a lot of scope for that.
The alternative to that is a kind of pipeline approach, which is the Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) approach: we tell you what the qualifications are and we train you to those qualifications. The difficulty with that is, like most pipelines, you’ve got to know what your resource is and lay it down in a particular way. There’s not a lot of flexibility in a pipeline and it’s quite extractive. The process of assessing prior learning has a lot more flexibility to assess folk who come from the Pacific and are already learning when they leave.