“Custom land is so central to life in the Pacific Islands that its importance cannot be overstated. Yet through the eyes of free trade agreements it is seen as a barrier to investment, something that needs to be challenged,” commented PANG Campaigner Adam Wolfenden.
The briefing paper outlines many of the common questions about free trade and what it means for custom land in the Pacific Islands.
“Previous attempts to privatise land in the Pacific have been meet with a strong refusal by Islanders. What we’re seeing now is free trade advocates using these agreements to secure control over the usage of the land, which can in effect mean that custom decisions about land use are undermined” added Mr Wolfenden.
“We’re seeing this in Vanuatu where its Trade in Services commitments at the World Trade Organization (WTO) mean the government’s ability to specifically support and nurture land use for Indigenous enterprise, such as local burree owners or other tourist accommodation, can only happen if it gives the same support to foreign investors” continued Mr Wolfenden.