The Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) was conceived in 1986 between the three Melanesian Pacific Island Countries namely Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. The reason for the conception of the MSG Agreement was due to the following:
to promote and Strengthen inter membership trade, exchange of Melanesian Cultures, traditions, values and sovereign equality;
to foster economic and technical cooperation between the members; and
to align member country's policies and further member's shared goals of economical growth, sustainable development, good governance and security.
Recognizing the economic and political potential of this sub-regional Group and its importance, Fiji became an observer to the Group in 1993. Fiji was invited to be a full member of the MSG in 1996 in PNG, at the MSG Leaders Summit.
The MSG Trade Agreement (MSGTA) came into effect in 1993 with the original three members and established a reciprocal free trade agreement (trade in goods). To solidify its status in the Group, Fiji joined the MSG Trade Agreement in 1998. The MSGTA has played a pioneering role in the regional integration in the Pacific.
In 2004, the MSG members agreed to deepen and revise this free trade agreement by adopting a negative-list approach instead of the previous mode of trading on a positive list. The revised MSGTA was signed by the four parties in 2005, in PNG. To date there are four members of the MSG, namely Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.
At present, members of the MSG are discussing broadening the MSGTA (trade in goods agreement) to an MSG Plus agreement which will include Trade in Services, labour mobility and membership from other interested Pacific Island Countries. The MSG has established its own secretariat, based in Vanuatu that facilitates meetings and coordination amongst MSG members. Members are currently further discussing the architecture of the Trade Agreement.