Solomon Islands' Trade Envoy, Robert Sisilo, will lead the Solomon Islands Delegation to the third meeting of the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) to be held next week in Koror, Palau.The meeting will discuss, amongst other things, labour mobility, development cooperation and a work programme to guide the PACER Plus negotiations.
Labour mobility is an issue close and dear to the heart of Solomon Islands and other Forum Island Countries (FIC).
The countries are expected to raise the issue and call on Australia and New Zealand for better access to their labour markets.
Mr Sisilo says if there is one issue that could pave the way for a successful conclusion of the proposed PACER-Plus economic and trade agreement with Australia and New Zealand, "it will be the issue of labour mobility."
Solomon Islands and some FICs are already accessing the ANZ labour market under the New Zealand's Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme and Australia's Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme (PSWPS).
However, FICs are concerned that these schemes are not binding and can therefore be withdrawn at any time. Mr Sisilo is therefore adamant that there has to be some binding commitments on the part of ANZ to ensure FICs' access to their labour markets is secure and predictable.
It is understood that Development Assistance, focusing on physical infrastructure for trade, trade development and promotion, is another issue senior trade experts will grapple with in Palau.
The importance of shipping, aviation, telecommunications and water infrastructure to increased trade in goods and services between Member Countries cannot be overstated. They can also impact, directly or indirectly, the movement of goods.
He says they hope to agree on some binding commitments that would allow Solomon Islands' and other FICs semi-skilled and skilled workers including plumbers, nurses and teachers to go and work in Australia and New Zealand.