Finance Minister calls for immediate visa free travel in the Pacific

June 13, 2023 12:58 pm

[Source: KarryOn]

Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad has emphasized the urgent need for immediate visa-free travel between Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific Island states.

The proposal he says aims to facilitate the growth of Fijian and Pacific businesses in the Australian and New Zealand markets, while also allowing Australian and New Zealand businesses to expand across the Pacific.

Prof Prasad stressed the importance of creating large businesses that can thrive in a new geo-economic landscape.

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By forging closer economic ties, Prasad states that the Pacific region intends to dispel the perception of being distant and powerless small states.

Instead, he states the region want the world to recognize us as a large oceanic states with a significant stake in humanity’s future.

“It simply cannot continue to be the case that it is easier for Lithuanians to travel in and out of Australia than it is for Fijians. It simply cannot continue to be the case that Latvians have easier travel access into New Zealand than do Solomon Islanders.”

Prasad further underscored the Pacific’s crucial role as the world’s largest continent, often referred to as the blue continent.

He highlighted the region’s status as the world’s lungs, providing oxygen not only for its own inhabitants but also for an increasingly oxygen-starved world. Considering the economic context, Prasad emphasized the need for a halfway point in engaging with the world.

Meanwhile, Australian High Commission Charge D’ Affaires Stuart Watts confirms that visa-free travel has been a long-term topic of discussion and is presently still under consideration.

“We do have a couple of pilots coming up, there’s a pilot coming up on the Pacific Labor Mobility Scheme and then we’ve got the engagement visa coming later this year. I think that is the first step but this is something that we all have to agree to it, it can’t just work for Australia, it can’t just work for elites in the Pacific. It has to work for everyone and that is why it’s an ongoing discussion with the governments in the Pacific as well.

The Finance Minister strongly emphasized that Australia and New Zealand must be integral parts of the Pacific story, as there is no room for division within the Pacific family.