Trade Ministers from the Pacific Islands Forum nations are recommending that formal negotiations of the enlarged Pacific Agreement of Closer Economic Relations, or PACER PLUS, begin in August.
The Ministers, now meeting in Apia, have also agreed that an advisory office for the island countries on trade will be established in Vanuatu.
Don Wiseman has more.
"There had been calls for the island countries to proceed cautiously on the PACER Plus negotiations, under which New Zealand and Australia envisage a common market in the Pacific. But the Ministers say they recognise the importance of deepening regional trade integration as a means to create jobs, enhance private sector growth, raise standards of living and advance the region's sustainable economic development. They say PACER-Plus provides the Pacific region with a significant opportunity to develop a truly innovative trade and economic agreement that takes account of the different stages of development of each nation. New Zealand and Australia will contribute funding for the Office of the Chief Trade Advisor, which initially will be the Forum's offices in Suva but eventually set up in Port Vila. Funding from other sources can also be sought. The Ministers say formal negotiations on PACER Plus should begin immediately following the Forum leaders' summit in Cairns in August."