An economist at the University of the South Pacific says island countries need to push for labour mobility provisions to be written into any agreements on regional economic integration.
Dr Wadan Narsey sees few advantages for island countries from the Pacific Islands Countries Trade Agreement, or PICTA, and says they should focus on securing greater benefits from the yet to be negotiated PACER - Plus deal.
Dr Narsey says the critical thing for Pacific Island countries is to ensure access for unskilled labour into Australia and New Zealand.
He says this needs to be part of a trade agreement, rather than dependent on aid arrangements as at present.
"An aid package can be withdrawn any time there's an election in Australia or New Zealand. And the union lobby doesn't want to see too many foreign workers coming in, putting a downward pressure on Australian and New Zealand wages. For the Pacific Island countries it is better to make it part of a trade deal which countries have to adhere to, regardless of temporary political pressures."