The New Relations between the Pacific Island Nations and Japan in the Age of Globalization

3.Options of the Pacific Island Nations
(1) Political Options

Whether in the Caribbean or in the Pacific basin, one of the options open for the people living on the small islands with regard to political system is to take advantage of the historical connections of the country and to put themselves under the protection of a former metropolitan power, opting for a sub-system within the political system of that power. In the Caribbean, a typical example can be seen in the Cayman Islands, which were for a long time a dependency of Jamaica, and chose, on Jamaica's independence (1962), to remain as crown colonies of the United Kingdom. Other examples are Anguilla, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Montserrat, and the British Virgin Islands, all of which enjoy a certain amount of self-autonomy under British rule. Others include islands which maintain relations with the United States such as Puerto Rico (self-governing Commonwealth) and the American Virgin Islands (an unincorporated territory under the US Department of Interior), those that remain under the rule of the Netherlands such as the Dutch Antilles and Antilles and Aruba, and those that chose to remain as overseas departments of France (D.O.M.), such as Guadeloupe and Martinique. A unique example can be found in those islands that chose to come under the rule of Venezuela, the richest country in South America (Venezuela achieved independence in 1830).
In the Pacific, there seems not as much variety as in the Caribbean and most countries have chosen independence. However, there are examples such as Guam, which is a Non-Self-Governing Territory and the Northern Mariana Islands, which are a Commonwealth of the United States. Another choice was that made by Cook and Niue, who chose to "continue economic and citizenship ties with New Zealand" by acquiring the status of "independence in free association with New Zealand". (*3) The Micronesian Islands, which decided to abandon their status as trusteeship under the United Nations for independence, are still under the guidance of the US government in matters of diplomacy and security (anomaly by traditional standard of international politics). If one includes New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia, three overseas territories (T.O.M.) of France, one can see that the political status of the islands of the Pacific are just as varies as that of the Caribbean islands.

As mentioned above, it should be noted that the island peoples have quite a wide range of options regarding international status. One might regard the present situation as a transitory stage towards political independence and perhaps there will be some more islands that will opt for a genuine independence in the future. However, we are aware that many developing countries throughout the world face difficult task of responding to the challenge of globalization and are under pressure to reconsider problems of nation building. It is not without reason for "a small, usually fragmented, state wants maximum independence plus maximum benefits of being part of a larger, richer and more powerful state".(*4) Therefore we believe that it is worthwhile for the Caribbean and Pacific Island peoples to consider the fact that various options are available to them.

(2) Socio-economic Options

Globalization means different things to different people. They will all agree, however, about the fundamental fact that it is characterized by the facilitation of movement of capital, labor, information, etc. on a worldwide basis. What options are open to the Caribbean and Pacific islands in such an environment? There must be various ways also to take advantage of the characteristics of the countries of being small islands surrounded by ocean and located far from centres of economic and cultural activities of the world.

Emigration In the past, it was the nation that chose its capital; now, the capital which can choose and move to a location with favorable conditions. However, the remoteness and small-scale geographical and social conditions of the island countries are not conducive to attracting sufficient capital. Rather, it is the people of the islands who move overseas in search of more favorable market for labor. In Jamaica, nearly half of the people of Jamaica go abroad to work in the North America and Europe. A considerable portion of the income of Jamaica is made up of remittance sent back home by those who work abroad (accurate statistics are difficult to obtain due to the nature of the issue). Similar phenomenon exists in the Pacific, where a high percentage of people in Tonga and Samoa, for instance, live outside the respective home islands. Over half of the people of Polynesia are said to be living in New Zealand.

If desolation of their home islands took place as a result of emigration of productive age groups, that would be unfortunate both for those families who remain on the islands and for the emigrant workers themselves who risk suffering from identity crises and degenerating into diaspora. However, in the age of globalization with the facilitation of movement of people and information, it is becoming easier for island people to have two or more "home lands" by maintaining economic and psychological ties between the emigrant workers abroad and those who remain on the native island.

Tourism Even in the age of globalization, one thing does not move: land. Rather, people from overseas attracted by the land do come to the islands. Therefore, the tourism industry is very important for the island economies. Barbados is a typical example of an island that finances its economy by providing a comfortable environment for the country resorts of the wealthy families of the advanced countries such as the United States and Western Europe. In the Caribbean, the moderate distance from these wealthy countries benefit the islands in such respects and there are many islands that chose this option. In the case of the Pacific Islands, the situation is somewhat more difficult in that the geographical distance is too great, the scale of the islands too small, which limits the number of tourists that can be accommodated, and the impact on the natural environment too great. If such problems can be overcome (for example, by improving the air routes), this option is not unthinkable for the PINs as well. One project that has been undertaken by the JANCPECC in cooperation with its New Zealand counterpart is worthy of special mention: Fiji Ecotourism Project. Initiated in 1991, the Project has selected the village of Abaca situated in the mountainous region of Koroyanitu, Viti Levu Island, Fiji, as a site for the testing of ecotourism development. It is yet to reach completion, but it is expected to be a role model of successful ecotourism development for may island countries in the region.(*5)

Capital Conditions of the island countries are not usually suitable, as mentioned before, for attracting capitals. They can provide, however, an attractive condition for capital moving across national boundaries in a rather ironical manner. An outstanding example of this is the offshore banking of Grand Cayman. This island, with a population of about 30 thousand, is said to rank fifth in the world in terms of booking bank loans. The Dutch Antilles constitute one of the top providers of capital to the United States and many of the world's wealthiest investors such as the Quantum Fund of George Soros, among others, base their activities here. The fact that tax regulations and other legal restrictions are loosely enforced is a factor of interest to investors. Although in a somewhat ironical way, this too is a hardheaded approach that takes advantage of the region's peculiarities, namely the difficulty for the regulation authorities to fully exercise their control over transnational activities based on the island. Such offshore banking centers are, as IMF specialists complain, the choke points of the international finance system.(*6 ) In the Pacific, the Cook Islands place an emphasis on offshore banking. Another example is Vanuatu, which adopts various preferential measures in taxation (so-called tax haven).

Transnational Crimes Of course, it is not only risk-taking investors that try to utilize the islands' characteristics of being relatively easy to evade the law but also those who engage in illegal and indecent activities, such as drug traffic, gambling, smuggling of guns, money laundering etc. It also is true that capital does not always lead to favorable results, as is illustrated in the recent example of the Asian countries where the sudden influx and outflow of short-term capital (portfolio investment) brought about major financial chaos. In any case, there is a tendency for rather dubious type of transnational actors to become concentrated in the islands, which are convenient in that legal regulations are loose to begin with and that, even if there are regulations, the capabilities for enforcing them are rather weak. A typical example of this is the drug trade in Jamaica and other islands of the Caribbean basin which, it is said, provide routes for drugs of Columbia origin, for instance, to be exported to the market in North America. Fortunately, the Pacific is so far not so heavily involved in such illegal dealings. Whether or not to risk such dangers and choose to make a daring use of their attractiveness as "remote islands with loose legal enforcement" is difficult choice for the PINs.(*7)

Information Industry The acceleration of the flow of information across borders is another aspect of globalization. The revolution in information technology (IT) works to compensate for the handicap of geographical distance of the island countries. Furthermore, the information industry does not require a large amount of land space. These points should open up more options for the remote island countries to survive the global age of information. The PINs should consider the example of the Caribbean, where many enterprises based in North America establish their information processing bases. For this, it is essential to develop a satellite communications network in this region. Fortunately the foundations for this are already existent, for example in the form of PEACESAT, developed by the United States during the Cold War, and in USPNet, a derivative of PEACESAT. With the joint assistance of Japan, New Zealand and Australia an upgraded system of the USPNet has been launched in late March 2000, whereby distance education in the area of the University of South Pacific (USP) will be greatly facilitated. There is also a development plan for PARTNERS, which is part of the space development program sponsored by the Japanese Government. International cooperation is desired in order to develop further these foundations. If the PINs are able to overcome tyranny of distance by improving their communications methods in this way, not only will the people of the islands be able to have access to the information industry with greater ease but communication among the islanders themselves will also be facilitated, thereby serving to build a regional identity for the Pacific Island as a whole. Participating in globalization does not mean a loss of identity for the individual islands or for the entire region.

The need for Global "Land Policy" The example given above are guidelines to illustrate the fact that the island countries need to respond to the challenge of globalization while taking advantage of their unique characteristics and that there are quite a number of possible options and approaches to the problem. The common factor among this diversity is, though, that it is necessary to make systematic efforts to connect the remote islands with the world's political and economic centers (metropolitan areas). Japan, full of experiences of countering depopulation in the isolated islands and mountainous regions within a country (both of these abound in Japan), should make use of such experiences when it designs its policy towards PINs. The problem of remote island countries in the international community must be considered on the level of a global "land policy". In other words, there is a need to reconsider international assistance programs in a way that the problems concerning the island countries are properly addressed.

  • *3: Terry Chapman et al., Niue: A History of the Island (The Government of Niue and the Institute of Pacific Studies of the University of the South Pacific, 1982), p.137.
  • *4: Ron Crocombe. "Geopolitical Change in the Pacific Islands", in Dennis Rumley et al., Global Geopolitical Change and the Asia-Pacific: A Regional perspective (February 1996), p.288.
  • *5 :Akio Maita and Hiroshi Iwase, "The Development of Ecotourism in Fiji and Its Effects--With Particular Focus on the Village of Abaca", EEZ Technology, 5th Edition (ICG Publishing Ltd.), Autumn 1999, pp. 37-43.
  • *6: William Greidner, One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism, (A Touchstone Book, Simon & Schuster, 1997), pp.32-33.
  • *7:A grand "multimedia city" scheme of Niue, which one journalist says may turn out to be a little more than a German promoter's pipedream is a case in point. See John Andrews, "Money or the flak: Niue's dilemma", Weekend Herald (Fiji), March 25-26, 2000.
The New Relations between the Pacific Island Nations and Japan
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