Focus on trade statistics

THE deficiency of both international merchandise trade statistics has limited the South Pacific region’s ability to understand the regional integration dynamics, assess progress and provide for cohesive political direction.

This was one of the issues that is under discussion at the week-long technical forum on international merchandise trade statistics focusing on goods traded under preferential trade agreements at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat’s Main Conference Room in Suva, Fiji from yesterday to March 2.

A media release from the PIFS stated the workshop will provide an overview of trade agreements in general, how the agreements work and their benefits, and the range of commodities traded and how they can be identified at source for the compilation of official trade statistics.

“We need systematic processes in place to allow us to effectively monitor and evaluate the implementation of regional trade agreements in a manner that would inform practical trade policy development going forward,” said the deputy secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Cristelle Pratt.

“Furthermore, the necessary data should be collated, analysed and disseminated to enable relevant stakeholders to assess the effects of the preferential arrangements, as well as provide policy makers with informed policy options,” said Ms Pratt.

Meanwhile MSG Secretariat deputy general Amena Yauvoli said the workshop was aimed at equipping national trade statistics officials with the necessary knowledge and skills to measure and analyse the effectiveness of the region’s preferential trade agreements.

According to the PIFS the Pacific region’s intra-regional trade is facilitated under a number of preferential trade treaties, namely the South Pacific Regional Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (SPARTECA), the Melanesian Spearhead Group Trade Agreement (MSGTA), the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), and the Interim Economic Partnership Agreements.

Economic Statistician from the Pacific Community, Nilima Lal stated that a similar workshop had taken place in 2012, however, there were difficulties in sourcing the relevant data from the region and the Pacific Community through its Statistics for Development Division hoped that the gathering would be an opportunity for statistics compilers and border agencies to strengthen their collaboration, gather and identify the necessary information required to enable the sourcing of the correct data under the specific preferential trade arrangements.

The workshop is jointly facilitated by the Pacific Community, the PIFS, the Oceania Customs Organisation, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat.

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