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Forum Trade Ministers convened in Suva on Thursday 13 February 2020, a welcomed opportunity to consider developments in regional trade and in the context of global issues including the multilateral trading system and the impacts on trade and Pacific economies of climate change, environment and health on Pacific economies.
On the World Trade Organisation, there is support for the multilateral trading system and the opportunity therein to address global trade concerns including harmful fisheries subsidies.
Trade Ministers of PACER Plus Signatories confirmed their commitment to bring the agreement into force in 2020 which required four more ratifications in addition to that of New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and Kiribati.
Lautafi Fio Selafi Purcell, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour of Samoa, encouraged the early entrance into force of the agreement to unlock opportunities to expand trade through the Development and Economic Cooperation Work Programme and broader trade and investment related assistance. The PACER Plus Work Programme and broader Aid for Trade assistance includes support to build Pacific island capacities in matters relating to rules of origin and tariffs, customs, SPS, TBT, standards and conformity, trade in services, investment, support to improve regional labour mobility opportunities, trade policy regulations, economic infrastructure (incl. transport, tourism, ICT), trade adjustment and productive capacities. The PACER Plus Implementation Unit will be established to implement the Work Programme which will benefit Parties to the Agreement.
The Labour Mobility Arrangement, a key outcome of the PACER Plus negotiations, is now being implemented including the convening of the Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM). Ministers committed to ensure the PLMAM remains an open and inclusive forum for regional dialogue while preserving its benefits for the implementation of labour mobility advantages for PACER Plus members.
Samoa will host the 4th PLMAM tentatively scheduled to be held in Apia in October 2020. Labour Mobility is now on the Forum trade agenda including consideration of issues arising out of PLMAM.
Forum Trade Ministers also recognised the importance of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA) and its potential to facilitate intra-regional trade. Further discussions on the direction of PICTA can only take place once the modernisation work on PICTA is completed including the extensive PICTA Review and the Rules of Origin Review, towards effective implementation.
The Pacific ACP Trade Ministers deliberated on the Pacific – EU trade relations including the status of negotiations for a Post-Cotonou agreement that will reset the development relationship, including that of trade, between the broader ACP grouping and the EU, for the next 20 years. PACP Trade Ministers also noted the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU and the Pacific –UK Interim Economic Partnership Agreement which now exists as a consequence of Brexit. An assessment of Brexit implications on PACP trade relations will need to be further considered.
PACP Trade ministers also witnessed the signing, between the EU and Regional Authorising Officer, of the Financing Agreement for the Pacific Regional Integration Support Programme (PRISE). The PRISE will deliver support to increase intra-regional and international trade; and increase the participation of the private sector in economic integration including specific support to implement the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement of which Samoa is a Party to.
Discussions on kava, as an important alternative cash crop for the Pacific, will be maintained at regional and international fora including determination of how to enhance market access and market diversification for kava and kava products.
Minister Lautafi Purcell was honoured to speak on the commemoration of 40 years since the Pacific Trade & Invest Australia Office was established; and at the University of the South Pacific (USP) – Fiji Trade Ministry Panel discussion held at the USP as a side event to the Forum Trade Ministers’ Meeting.
SOURCE: SAMOA GOVT/PACNEWS
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