CHAIR of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Manasseh Sogavare has created history for Solomon Islands regionally in being the first leader to sign a new Melanesian Free Trade Agreement.
The agreement was signed by Prime Minister, Manasseh Sogavare in the presence of trade Minister, Milner Tozaka and members of the MSG office in Port Vila, Vanuatu on friday.
The event on Friday sets a new bench mark for MSG member states, with Solomon Islands being the first country to sign the agreement which will be followed by Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu.
The third version of the new trade agreement has increased its coverage from commodity trade to three new inclusive trading that includes the trade in services, labour mobility and investments.
The Solomon Islands in particular, the treaty will be effective as of January 1st 2017 with an aim to liberalize every product as was promised to deal with over the past seven years.
The PM and MSG Chair, Mr Sogavare said the new agreement is very comprehensive, and will help the nation build its capacity to do something better and to improve ways of doing things—in terms of trade competition.
PM Sogavare further said the agreement is a very good one and will support Solomon Islands improve its capacity for investment and labour mobility.
“We are not exporting much out of Solomon Islands with Vanuatu, but we receive lots of investment, and if you really analyze this properly, we are net gainers under this trading with PNG,” PM Sogavare said.
“There’s more than 50 big investors from Papua New Guinea investing in Solomon Islands with billions of dollars—so we don’t look at trading of goods only,” Chair Sogavare said.
“I think what needs to be done is challenge us Solomon Islands to improve our manufacturers to participate effectively,” Mr Sogavare said.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Milner Tozaka said they have broadened and deepened the trade and economic integration from two previous agreements.
With the new comprehensive agreement, Minister Tozaka said it will help Solomon Islands not only in goods exchange between ourselves, but also in capacity building.
Mr Tozaka further highlights the positive things about the agreement and how it will be assisting member countries to upgrade services that are acceptable.
The treaty signed will apply to MSG and non-MSG members—as main trading partners are also those outside of the cycle.
However, after seeking all the MSG leader’s signature, the MSG team will seek support on the endorsement for the ratification of treaty, which will be called the Melanesian Free Trade Agreement.