Trade agreements, temporary mobility schemes and climate change in the Pacific Islands
Climate change poses several severe threats to developing countries. In extreme cases entire states might become inhabitable. People living in these states need to resettle to other countries. If climate change resettlements become necessary Pacific Islanders do not want to become climate change refugees. To include environmental reasons in refugee conventions is not what Pacific Islanders want. They want to migrate in dignity, if migration becomes unavoidable. Removing obstacles to the movement of people is increasingly considered a way of contributing to economic development through meeting identified labour shortages, transferring skills, and increasing remittances. Pacific Island countries greatly vary in their access to international migration opportunities for work purposes. Some have fairly open access to working opportunities abroad due to special bilateral agreements while people in other Pacific Island countries are more restricted in their mobility by the immigration policies of destination countries. When the World Trade Organization (WTO) took up its work on January 1, 1995 a new era started for trade between Developed and Developing Countries. By signing the Marrakesh Agreement of the Uruguay Round of GATT a General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) was established for the first time and further substantiated in later negotiations under the WTO. The provision of GATS (Mode 4) allows temporary labour mobility for the purpose of service delivery. Also regional trade agreements and trade agreements between Pacific Island countries and the EU have potentials to include labour mobility, but have proven to be politically very sensitive. In addition there are also temporary mobility scheme for unskilled labour. Australia and New Zealand have unilaterally introduced such schemes of seasonal migration of unskilled labour. At present up to 8,000 persons from (in order of importance) Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Kiribati can come to New Zealand for seasonal agricultural work. The Australian scheme allows people from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and (since 2012) Timor Leste to enter Australia for seasonal unskilled employment mainly in the agricultural sector. Such schemes and policies can play an important role to prepare people who need to leave their homes because of climate change. To be able to contribute to the economic advancement of destination countries is better than to become environmental or climate change refugees. It is now still much time to equip people with skills that enable them to positively contribute to the societies that are supposed to receive them. It is equally important that there is a Pacific Island identity that sees it natural to help out and welcome those who need support, who need new homes.
The University of the South Pacific (USP)