Pacer Plus consultations proceeding as planned, legislative changes ahead

Samoa is well on its way to implementing the PACER Plus agreement (Pacific agreement on closer economic relations), thanks to consultations with the Oceania Customs Organisation (OCO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The OCO head of Secretariat Roy Lagolago and operations manager Tevita Tupou were in Samoa earlier this month, and will return next month to consult with the Government and the private sector on the changes that need to happen to enable Samoa to ratify the agreement.

In a media release from the OCO, the CEO of Ministry for Revenue Matafeo Avalisa Fautua'alii said she is happy to see Samoa manage the consultations, and that the private sector was included.

"We want to make sure that they understand our needs and the environment that we operate within," she said.

"Without the private sector, Samoa’s economy cannot grow."

But she and the Minister for Revenue share a concern that the PACER Plus agreement could impact on Samoa's revenue, which a concerns she has passed on to the OCO.

Mr Lagolago said addressing the private sectors concerns should be done regularly, naming the export of bio-security goods to Australia and New Zealand and a potential loss of revenue as two of those concerns.

The aim of the PACER Plus is to facilitate trade flows between the Pacific Island countries to promote development and economic growth.

Samoa's regional coordinator for UNCTAD, Dr Patrick Goettner, said it has several major themes like customs harmonisation, standardisation of trade procedures and legislation, tariffs, transparency, rules of origin, biosecurity, sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures. 

Some of the benefits of the agreement may not manifest immediately, Dr Goettner said.

"Potential reductions in national income through reduced tariffs could be outweighed by increased exports to other Pacific countries and stimulated economic growth through trade."

Like the OCO, the UNCTAD is working together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) on the part of the PACER Plus agreement trying to make trade procedures more transparent.

“We´re developing a Samoa online trade portal that will give easy step-by-step guidance to enterprises of all sizes, entrepreneurs, local importers and exporters with regards to import and export procedures“ said Dr Goettner.

“For instance, if you´re a local enterprise and want to import meat to Samoa, this online trade portal will inform you about the practical steps you need to take to accomplish this goal.

"It contains information on institutions and divisions you need to contact, directions, opening hours, required documents and forms, costs, average duration of the procedures as well as results. 

"All the steps will be covered from starting a business, getting licenses and permits, customs clearances till the final release of your meat containers at the port.”

The steps will be displayed in a freely and publicly available central online portal with the goal to make procedures concerning the import and export of goods more transparent, and make access to regional and international markets easier for Samoan businesses.

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