By Dr Transform Aqorau

In the vast expanse of the Pacific, spanning from the equator’s warmth to the temperate zones, the Pacific Islands have always been diverse yet interconnected by the boundless ocean. These waters, teeming with life and culture, have brought together nations through various agreements, including the PACER Plus, the Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement, and the MSG Free Trade Agreement. As the Pacific Islands journey towards a Blue Pacific 2050-2100 pathway, one crucial step is imperative: the introduction of visa-free movement for Pacific Islanders.

The vision of a united Pacific isn’t just about economic integration; it’s about people. It’s about the researcher in Tonga collaborating with peers in Samoa, the entrepreneur in Fiji seeking markets in Vanuatu, or the student in Solomon Islands furthering their studies in Papua New Guinea. By ensuring visa-free entry for work, business, education, and research, we are paving the way for a Pacific that thrives on shared knowledge, mutual respect, and collective growth.

The common fear is that visa-free movement would lead to massive migrations, depleting resources and disrupting local economies. However, these concerns might be overblown. The intent is not to trigger vast relocations but to create opportunities. The Pacific Islander entrepreneurs, given this freedom, can expand and invest without the current barriers, offering a richer tapestry of services and goods to our fellow islanders. For those who can finance their ventures and relocations, the doors will be open, further solidifying the bonds between our nations.

The idea of a Pacific Parliament, once proposed by Mike Moore of New Zealand, emerges as a solution to augment this integration. Law-making bodies across the Pacific Islands are instrumental in shaping our futures. Why not provide them a platform on a larger scale? A Pacific Parliament would not only unite our diverse nations but would also offer more tangible, impactful decisions, transcending mere diplomatic statements.

As we continue to contemplate the true essence of the Pacific 2050 Strategy, one thing is clear: mobility is key. Visa-free movement doesn’t just signify open borders; it exemplifies the essence of the blue economy. It is a testament to the large ocean state where every individual knows they can traverse the seas, connecting with their neighbours freely.

Pacific Islanders have a rich history, shared values, and common aspirations. Instead of erecting barriers, it’s time to construct bridges – bridges that enable seamless crossings, shared journeys, and united destinies. The benefits, both tangible and intangible, will undeniably enrich our shared Pacific narrative, ensuring prosperity for generations to come.