Ministry host trade workshop for officials

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade [MFAT] has held a two-day workshop to bring officials up to speed on trade agreements that Samoa signed as well as identify opportunities and overcome challenges.

The M.F.A.T. Chief Executive Officer, Peseta Noumea Simi, told officials in her opening address on Wednesday that the workshop is being convened at a time of global uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Samoa hasn’t been spared its effects.

“We have not been spared by the economic and social impacts of this health crisis. We want to utilise the opportunity through this workshop to hear from you, on how we can address some of the associated challenges through trade arrangements so that engagement with our trading partner governments are informed,” she said.

“The Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations or P.A.C.E.R Plus is the most recent trade and economic cooperation agreement that Samoa has signed and ratified. We have invited the High Commissioners of New Zealand and Australia to speak in the P.A.C.E.R Plus session and share their perspectives on how P.A.C.E.R Plus can support Samoa, the Pacific island economies and promote regional integration.”

The workshop also included presentations on the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement; World Trade Organisation [WTO]; EU-Pacific Interim Economic Partnership Agreement [EU-Pacific EPA]; the United Kingdom-Pacific Interim Economic Partnership Agreement; and bilateral trade interests and challenges as well as trade promotion activities.

Peseta also used the occasion to defend the Samoa Government’s decision to sign the PACER Plus, saying the Government sees the trade agreement as an opportunity to expand trade and investment.

“Despite the criticisms of P.A.C.E.R Plus and free trade agreements in general, the Government sees P.A.C.E.R Plus as a Pacific regional trade partnership with our key trading partners, Australia and New Zealand. It will be our collective responsibility to ensure that we are not worse off, economically; and for Samoa to pursue opportunities to expand trade and investment.”

The Samoa Government is also eyeing the United Kingdom-Pacific Interim Economic Partnership Agreement, she added.

“Samoa’s LDC [Least Developed Country] graduation in 2014 prompted the Government to consider alternative trade arrangements. As such, Samoa signed and ratified the EU-Pacific Interim Economic Partnership Agreement which continued the export of Samoa’s virgin coconut oil and nonu juice to the EU [European Union].

"Samoa is now in the process of acceding to the United Kingdom-Pacific I.E.P.A as a consequence of the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union.

“I am pleased that His Excellency, David Ward, the British High Commissioner to Samoa, will expand on Britain’s trade relations with Samoa later this afternoon [Wednesday afternoon]."

The MFAT has also received requests from Samoa’s private sector urging the Samoa Government to sign trade bilateral trade agreements with key trade partners such as China, Japan and American Samoa. 

"I hope that you will engage with the Ministry further during those relevant sessions to provide further guidance on how we can address the challenges associated therewith," Peseta further reiterated. 

She then emphasised Samoa's signing of the various trade agreements and participation in multilateral trading systems – through organisations such as the W.T.O. – follow the Government’s strategic priorities and direction and are set out in the Strategy for the Development of Samoa revolving around: increasing exports; business productivity and labour mobility opportunities; improved commerce and business investment environment; and engaging the private sector in development.

“Trade agreements exist to facilitate trade through lowering or removing of trade barriers such as import duties; transparent rules; access to capacity building in supplies and technical know-how; and fair competition,” Peseta further highlighted.

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