Pacific Islands Forum trade ministers meeting in Fiji have agreed on a study into a framework for trade and economic co-operation.
Australia's parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs and trade, Bruce Billson, says the agreement to conduct a study is important for the economic development of the region.
Mr Billson says ministers have agreed to an analysis on the needs of island nations.
The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations allows for a free trade deal to start from 2011.
A key concern among many nations is the bureaucratic capacity to deal with a free trade agreement.