Tonga asks Pacific countries to soften up on bio-security and import tarrifs

Tonga's Ministry of Labour and Commerce chief executive officer Edgar Cocker. Picture: KANIVA TONGA NEWS

APIA, 16 JULY 2018 (KANIVA TONGA NEWS) – Tonga has asked Pacific officials who were meeting in Samoa last week to reduce their import tariffs and soften up on their bio-security processes.

They asked the Australian officials to reconsider their import restrictions on kava.

Tonga also discussed certain bio-security problems including African snails, fruit flies, mould and fumigation requirements which caused long-term delays in clearing containers at Australian, Fijian, Samoan and New Zealand ports.

The long delays often caused Tongan produce to be damaged before they reached Pacific markets, it has been claimed.

Ministry of Labour and Commerce CEO Edgar Cocker, who was representing Tonga at the meeting along with Trade Director Pauline Siasau, said the freight service high costs have exacerbated the situation and he has discussed it with the authorities.

Pacific trade officials were meeting to discuss how to expand economic activities that are beneficial for the region.

They also discussed co-ordinating policies to strengthen regional trade integration.

Samoa has imposed 20 per cent tariffs and 15 per cent GST on watermelons and produce from Tonga and Cocker was expected to discuss it with them during the meeting.

Tonga told the meeting that prices of its export products should not be less than 40 percent of the prices charged on them locally.

Tonga also told the meeting the freight service costs on Tonga’s exportation was too high.

Cocker said the meeting was important for Tonga because it provided an opportunity for the member countries to discuss regional trade agreements including PICTA – Pacific Islands Trade Agreements, PACER PLUS, Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) AND WTO.

“Discussing these agreements are significant for Tonga because they give us the opportunity to raise our concerns about the Pacific countries import tariffs and trade barriers and to discuss them with our Pacific counterparts,” Cocker said.

He said Tonga has also lobbied to have the PACER Plus regional office established in Tonga during the meeting. Samoa and Vanuatu were lobbying against Tonga.

More Stories