Trade rules loopholes affecting Pacific states

Fisheries is the lifeline of many Pacific Island economies and dominated meetings of the World Trade Organisation (W.T.O.) . Picture: Forum Fisheries Agency.

APIA, 17 SEPTEMBER 2018 (SAMOA OBSERVER) – There are loopholes in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules that affect the exports of its Pacific member countries including Samoa, says Pacific Islands Forum Permanent Representative to the WTO, Merewalesi Falemaka.

Falemaka, who is based in Geneva, is one of the facilitators of a two-week WTO regional trade policy training held in Samoa.

“There are certain rules we want to change, this is why we are negotiating in the WTO to make sure it provides flexibility for developing countries like ourselves that face the added challenges like isolation, high transportation cost, smaller population size and high wage cost,” Falemaka said.

“So the overall cost of production in our region is much higher compared to other regions and so what we are trying to seek in the WTO is to ensure flexibility that the rules of the WTO will enable us to expand our capacity to produce goods that we can export.”

She told the Business team that despite these loopholes, its small island members have always benefited under the trading rules.

“The Pacific Islands have always benefited because on our own we cannot negotiate with our larger trading partners on the decisions they make on trading policy. So it provides protection for us small trading countries.”

Falemaka said WTO rules enable its members in the Pacific to deal with challenges such as geography in a multilateral platform.

“The WTO rules provide us with more transparency in terms of the trade policies that affect our exports.

“And also the predictability because WTO is legally binding the 164 members, so members cannot just simply stand up and introduce new rules they want. There are procedures if they wish to change or impose certain trade measures that affect the exports of other members.

“So for us, as small island countries, we don’t really have the economic governing strength to influence the decisions of major trading partners, the WTO rules provide us with that stability and predictability to deal with our trading partners.”

Falemaka added the Pacific over the recent years has become much more visible with the Pacific grouping in the WTO.

“The groupings are much more common in the WTO if you want to push positions. That (Pacific grouping) has now been established formally in the WTO This allows the six-member Pacific countries to share common positions on issues that are under negotiations in the WTO, for example the fisheries subsidies.”

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