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The SPARTECA Trade Agreement – Unrestricted Trade Access to the Pacific Islands

People in the Western Hemisphere may consider Australia and New Zealand more as tourist destinations than viable, exporting trade partners. While it's true Australia alone enjoyed an increase in foreign visitors in the last year, one cannot rule out their contribution to the global economy. This isolated country/continent is ranked among the top twenty national economies and has entered numerous free trade agreements with countries close to home and on the other side of the world. Australia's involvement in the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Co-Operation Agreement, or SPARTECA, serves to bring Australian influence to lesser island nations in the Southern Hemisphere and improve trade relations among members.


SPARTECA has its roots in a treaty signed in July, of 1980 at a meeting of a group known as the Forum Island Countries, or FIC. The purpose of the treaty initially was to encourage trade among the smaller, lesser developed island nations of South Pacific with New Zealand and Australia. SPARTECA nations may trade amongst themselves without duty taxes and other restrictions.

Current members of SPARTECA include:

  • Australia - Australia holds the largest economy among the current SPARTECA roster. The Australian dollar is standard among several other island nation members, who trade with Australia for goods like beef, grains, and coal.

  • Cook Islands - This chain of small islands is technically part of New Zealand, and relies heavily upon tourism for their economy. Their geographical location allows for limited trade opportunities, though fruits and fish are exported regularly to Australia and Japan.

  • Fiji - While a popular tourist destination in the Pacific, Fiji has not existed without political controversy. A military coup in the late 2000s resulted in a governmental flux, and citizens continue to await the opportunity for fair elections. Prime exports of Fiji include timber, seafood, and various precious metals.

  • Kiribati - Once known as the Gilbert Islands, Kiribati is a former British colony with one of the lowest GDPs on record. Fish is a prime export, though Kiribati relies upon aid often from more developed neighbors like Australia and Japan.

  • Marshall Islands - A pivotal area during World War II with regards to nuclear testing, these Micronesian islands rely more upon imported goods from the United States, Japan, and Australia than they are able to export. Like other member nations in SPARTECA, seafood is a major industry.

  • Nauru - Nauru has the distinction of being one of the least populated independent nations in the world, and having a rather large unemployment rate. Strip mining is the major industry on the island.

  • New Zealand - New Zealand remains a constitutional monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II and is a highly developed island nation within SPARTECA, though trade is crucial to their economic status. Wool is perhaps their best known export, along with dairy and livestock to major partners Australia and China.

  • Niue - New Zealand is this island's largest benefactor, and the New Zealand "Kiwi" dollar is their standard currency. Nearly everything exported from here - honey, coconuts, and passion fruit - is distributed among SPARTECA nations.

  • Papua New Guinea - This British commonwealth nation is one of the least developed and explored in the world, yet is rich in natural resources like palm oil and precious metals which are traded to Australia.

  • Samoa - Samoa represents one of the larger islands in Polynesia, and like other SPARTECA nations relies upon crops of coconuts and indigenous fruits for their exports.

  • Solomon Islands - This Melanesian nation subsists on fishing industries and exports nearly half of their goods - coconut products, cocoa, and other crops - to Japan.

  • Tonga - Tonga presently seeks to grow as a tourism destination in the South Pacific, but for now they rely on cash crops such as root vegetables, coconuts, and bananas to trade.

  • Tuvalu - As one of the smallest nations in the world, Tuvalu has experienced little to no economic growth in recent years. Interestingly enough, the nation derives some income through sales of their desirable national Internet domain suffix (.tv).

  • Vanuatu - Vanuatu is dependent on their agriculture and tourism to maintain their economy. Television viewers may be familiar with the island nation through reality shows as Survivor , which has filmed on location.

One of the major challenges to SPARTECA is the obvious underdevelopment of the lesser member nations and their dependence on the larger economies of Australia and New Zealand for aid. The islands of Polynesia and Micronesia may see branching out trade to Europe and the Americas as a challenge if there are not enough goods to produce to meet a demand. To this end, a focus on tourism may help boost these minor economies, though their isolation in terms of geography presents issues for travelers outside of Australia and New Zealand.

Nonetheless, while SPARTECA plays a small role in trade on the global scale, one may become aware of the contributions these island nations make to the world economy through their involvement with Australia.



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