Pacific island governments embraced the concept of reciprocal free trade agreements in the late 1990s in response to shifts in their historical relationships with their major donors and the ascendancy of neoliberal globalisation as the dominant model of development. Since then, they have placed a great deal of faith in this model as a pathway to sustainable development to generate economic growth, employment and as a means to achieve development goals such as poverty alleviation. The thesis examines whether international economic treaties and trade rules constrain development strategies and policy choices of the fourteen Pacific Island Countries (PICs).
The thesis focuses on services liberalisation with special reference to tourism services, using as its analytical framework the theory of ‘Three Moments’ in law and development doctrine, as advanced in 2006 by Trubek and Santos in The New Law and Economic Development: A Critical Appraisal. Using this framework, it examines the interface of two competing paradigms of development - neoliberalism and the Right to Development.
The thesis also explores how the liberalisation efforts on trade in services have been rationalised and advanced at the international level through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and at the regional level through the negotiations of regional free trade agreements such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus), and the implications for policy and regulatory decisions at the national level in the PICs, especially those who are members of the World Trade Organization.
The thesis supports two main conclusions. First, the prevailing neoliberal model of development, embodied in the Second Moment of Law and Development, is not appropriate for the PICs in their pursuit of sustainable development. Second, there are signs of a possible shift towards a Third Moment in the region, but this potential is constrained by the instruments of international economic law, as well as political pressure from the PICs’ key trading partners who are also major donors.