The New Zealand government has marked the first anniversary of a controversial Pacific trade deal with talk of expanding a seasonal worker scheme into a more sweeping ‘preference’ in the NZ immigration settings.
Earlier this week, there was the news of a $100 million-plus financial injection for the Cook Islands. The Asian Development Bank, which is providing $80m in direct loans and a $21m grant to New Zealand to support the Cooks’ transition “from recovery to sustainable, private sector-led growth”, was quite clear about the fiscal risks: “The Cook Islands’ nascent economic recovery could unwind if further impacts from the pandemic delay the revival of its tourism industry.”
Equally stark numbers came from a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade economic update noting New Zealand’s imports from the Pacific dropped by 73 percent in the year to June 2021, while its exports to the region fell by 30 percent in the same period.
Views on the agreement’s merits are mixed: critics have argued it benefits Australia and New Zealand more than Pacific nations required to cut valuable tariffs, and Fiji and Papua New Guinea – the two largest economies in the region – have so far refused to join the deal.