24 Feb 2005

NGO head wary of Pacific Plan's call for economic integration for the region

9:09 pm on 24 February 2005

A Pacific NGO head, Lopeti Senituli, says economic union in the Pacific could work if allowances were made for the disadvantages faced by small economies.

The draft report advocating closer links in the region, the Pacific Plan, is now being circulated for comment.

It advocates full economic integration, though not for five years.

The region already has some free trade arrangements, and Mr Senituli, who heads the Tonga Community Development Trust, says they mostly favour the larger countries, namely those in the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

"Smaller and medium sized economies like Tonga and Samoa etc we have virtually little to benefit from such a scheme, so there needs to be some clear form of derogation from the standards that would allow smaller island economies to try and compete to be an exporter, rather than an importer at the end of the export pipeline."