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Deal in works to allow up to 2,000 Pacific Islanders to work in Australia

48th Pacific Island Leaders forum. [photo from Twitter]

Regional areas could see an influx of Pacific Islanders after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed a deal at the 48th Pacific Island Leaders forum in Samoa.

The prime minister was greeted at the airport in the capital of Apia by the Samoan deputy prime minister on Friday morning before being whisked away to a beachside resort for a day of talks.

He signed agreements with leaders of Kiribati, Tuvalu and Nauru on the sidelines of the annual Pacific Islands Forum, which will be dominated by trade and aid discussions.

Pacific workers will be sent to rural and remote towns for up to three years to cover shortages in low and semi-skilled jobs.

The deal expands on the longstanding, farming-based seasonal workers scheme to include industries such as tourism and aged care.

Mr Turnbull said the plan would help the development of the economies of the Pacific Islands.

"It has to be labour market-tested – it’s to enable workers from the Pacific Islands to work in regional Australia where employers can’t find Australian labour to do the work," he told reporters on Friday.

"You can imagine the benefit it has and the president of Kiribati spoke about that just a moment ago because of the training it provides, the experience it provides and, of course, the income it provides through the remittances back to their island homes."

Mr Turnbull said the workers who came back from Australia would then be able to pass on the benefits of their knowledge.

"These island nations are nations of seafarers… you see here in Samoa so many of the leading business people are Samoans who have gone overseas and come back with their [new] skills," he said.

"It's a very important part of their economy that people go out and acquire new skills… and come back here."

Financiers will be called on to make it easier for Pacific workers to send their incomes home.

Australia also promised to fund new aerial surveillance missions over the Pacific to detect and disrupt illegal fishing.

The planes will be in the air by the end of 2017 and add to Australia's fleet of Pacific patrol boats.

Mr Turnbull has also struck a deal with Tonga, Nauru and Tuvalu to improve health safeguards.

Each will receive help from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to make sure medicines coming into their countries are up to scratch.

China's influence 'more opportunistic than targeted'

China has spent billions of dollars on aid in the region, dramatically increased two-way trade and upped its ownership of local businesses.

Mr Pryke believes China's growing influence in the Pacific is not targeted but rather part of the country's global strategy to further its interests across a broader network.

China has supplied host country Samoa with 20 cars to help transport forum leaders in Apia this week after Samoa made the request three months ago.

“Although the time is a bit tight, the Chinese accepted the request immediately because Samoa is China’s long-time friend and we would consider the request from the Samoan government as our priority,” Chinese Ambassador to Samoa, Wang Xuefeng, said during a handover ceremony last month.

China also has a close relationship with Fiji, which is often seen as the problem child of the forum.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will once again boycott the forum, as he has done for years, after an earlier decision to ban him from attending over his role in leading Fiji's 2006 military coup.

More recently, Fiji has joined Papua New Guinea in refusing to sign a new regional trade deal aimed at improving labour mobility across countries in the Pacific.

Read more at SBS News