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The global coronavirus pandemic has closed borders across the Pacific region since 2020 and subsequently disrupted tourism and trade between Australia and many Pacific island countries. Unsurprisingly the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted every area of consideration throughout the inquiry into activating Australia’s trade and investment with Pacific island countries.

Measures aimed at protecting public health from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic have had a devastating economic impact on many Pacific island countries, especially those islands more reliant on international tourism or communities receiving remittances from seasonal workers employed across many sectors in Australia. The complex challenges imposed on economies and societies across the Pacific, Australia included, reinforce the importance of strong, transparent and predictable trade and investment relations.

This report outlines the significant role the Australian economy may be able to play in the region, through improved and more open trade relations with Pacific nations. The sub-committee recognises the growing importance of labour mobility and remittances to many families and communities in Pacific island countries, and the devastating economic impact of the travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. This highlights the need, in accordance with relevant public health advice, for a safe travel bubble to be developed between Australia and those Pacific islands countries willing to participate. This will not only support Australia’s trade and investment ties with the Pacific, but is critical to supporting Pacific employees and their communities abroad. Also critical will be job creating investment to improve the Pacific’s lagging infrastructure across the islands. Much will be gained by Australia and the Pacific nations embracing the Pacific Quality Infrastructure Initiative to support the delivery of quality infrastructure and assist with further economic development.

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