Trade policy training a boost for Pacific Islands

THE World Trade Organisation (WTO) regional trade policy training in progress last week in Samoa will enable the six Pacific member countries to improve their trading policy for their benefit.

Speaking to the Business team, Faustin Mukela Luanga, Counsellor and Head of the Asia and Pacific Desk of the WTO Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation, said there are issues that needs to be addressed and the workshop will allow discussions and present propositions to address these issues.

“WTO is an institution that deals with multilateral trading system, how countries trade among themselves to avoid any kind of discrimination when it comes to trade, how to make trade benefit all the members because we all know from an economic standard view that trade is good for economic development and economic growth, so how to benefit from that,” Luanga said.

“Take for example small isolated island countries like in the Pacific where they are far away from the major markets, so distance becomes a cost, to counter that how to facilitate trade in the Pacific, our Pacific countries can benefit with the partnership with the rest of the world, so this workshop will help address those areas.”

The workshop is funded by the WTO Secretariat and there are five representatives from six WTO member countries – Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea.

“The objective is to train the participants and to allow them to gain capacity to being negotiators because when it comes to trade, it is to with negotiation, how do you trade, how do you formulate policy that is compatible for your development goal, how do you frame the trade policy of your country that reflect your multilateral commitment with the rest of the world,” Luanga said.

“So for that, we need to train them and provide them with necessary skills that will allow them to understand the interest of their country, but to discuss and come together as a group of Pacific countries sharing common interest of the Pacific and frame a policy that will at least sell them and at the end attract investment and transform the economy, whether it’s fisheries, tourism, which are some sectors the Pacific has comparative advantage.”

When it comes to trade, each country has its own interest, but the good thing in trade is that even in sharing, it’s the interest that counts.

“You sell me what I don’t have or you sell me what I can buy cheap from your country. That is comparative advantage,” Luanga said.

“Some are competitive advantage those are countries that can produce everything at a lower cost but international trade taught us that even in that context we always need others as a partner in terms of technology acquirement, technology transfers, skills transfer.

“These days we are living in a new paradigm when it comes to trade, we are observing what we call global supply chain, take for example an iPhone, it is still designed in America but is assembled and produced in China, and we have about 40 countries shipping components and parts to this factory.”

Luanga said for Pacific Islands to connect to that supply chain, they need to diversify their exports.

“Take for example fisheries, we know the big fisheries company comes from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, but what do you get from fisheries, can you start transforming fisheries here.

“For Pacific countries that may have fisheries as their key sector providing huge income, they can diversify within the supply chain of fisheries from the capturing to the transforming of that fish, to add value even to that chain of fisheries,” Luanga said.

This is the first training to be held in Samoa and in the future some of the participants will travel to Geneva for more training.