Trade Agreements Under Spotlight by the Private Sector
[Nadi – June 26] The pace of the implementation of regional trade agreements and the private sector’s engagement in trade negotiations came under the spotlight at a panel discussion that took place on the second day of Trade Pasifika 2012.
Pacific exporters had a chance to ask experts from the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser (OCTA), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) on how the regional trade agreements could be efficiently used to boost trade for the Pacific and improve access to Pacific.
Questions focused on the benefits and volume of trade achieved under the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER), Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and the MSG trade agreement.
The panel highlighted that while the implementation of regional trade agreements had been slow, and the volume of trade not significant, those who traded under these agreements were making an important headway.
The Director of the Economic Governance Programme at PIFS, Shiu Raj said that Papua New Guinea had not implemented PICTA, and being the largest market in the Pacific, this had an impact on the volume of trade.
“There has not been significant trade under PICTA. However, those who are trading under PICTA have made gains,” he said.
He used the example of Cook Island pearls, which when imported into Fiji have 0% duty, as both countries are party to PICTA, while pearls imported from French Polynesia have 32% duty charged on them, making them more expensive for the consumer.
Responding to a question from the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce on what the private sector needed to do to enhance trade, Dr Edwini Kessie, the Chief Trade Adviser for the Pacific said, “The private sector needs to reassert itself and let the government know what it wants. The private sector should also be involved at all levels of trade negotiations, nationally and regionally.”
Tanna Coffee’s Terry Adlington, remarked that in Vanuatu the private sector came to know about trade agreements once the government delegation had returned from its trade mission.
However he added that the creation of Vanuatu’s Department of Industry was a step in the right direction, which had for aim to develop industry which would then lead to trade development.
Speaking at the panel discussion, the MSG Secretariat’s Mere Falemaka said, “There are opportunities that exist to increase trade under the MSG trade agreement.”
She urged MSG countries to take advantage of these agreements to increase the volume of trade.
Panel discussions on trade issues have been scheduled daily at Trade Pasifika 2012 to facilitate dialogue between the private sector, trade, export and import specialists. The panel discussion tomorrow will focus quality assurance and marketing.
Trade Pasifika 2012, underway at the Sheraton in Denarau is sponsored by ANZ and has received support from Williams and Goslings, Air Pacific, Air Terminal Service, Fiji TV as well as the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The event has been organized by the Pacific Island Private Sector organization (PIPSO) with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Centre, Secretariat of the Pacific community (SPC), AusAID’s Pacific Leadership Programme, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, private sector representatives and the Melanesian Spearhead Group.
More than 50 booths have produce and services from across the Pacific on display at Trade Pasifika 2012 which concludes on Wednesday, June 27.