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US Pacific Island Country trade and development agreement being explored

September 12, 2013

In July 2013, Pacific Island Country (PIC) Trade Ministers called on the Pacific Forum Secretariat to give priority to trade and economic cooperation discussions with the United States. The Forum Secretariat is now seeking funding for a study to identify the main issues to be addressed in any trade and economic cooperation negotiations with the USA. Representatives of the Forum Secretariat said that a comprehensive assessment would be required to determine what type of trade and economic cooperation agreement would be most appropriate between Pacific Island States and the United States.

According to the Forum Secretariat, for the Pacific Island Countries to be able to export to the USA, they need to overcome quite a few hurdles, and many of these are actually non-trade barriers. The scope for a broader agreement is being explored as a result of US interest in accessing the Pacific regions tuna resources.

The fundamental nature of some of the wider non-tariff hurdles faced by Pacific Island exporters were raised in July at the Pacific Forum Trade Ministers meeting by the host, Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi. Addressing the Trade Ministers, the Prime Minister expressed concern that after all the good work being undertaken by Ministers and officials to address issues of quarantine, rules of origin and technical barriers to trade, as well as customs procedure constraints and the basic work of product development, this work might be wasted if high freight costs simply make Pacific island export products uncompetitive. The Prime Minister called for innovative and bold initiatives to get to grips with freight cost challenges faced in the Pacific.