Geography and distance continues to be a major hurdle to trade for Pacific Island nations that are members of the World Trade Organisation.
Faustin Mukela Luanga, Counsellor and Head of the Asia and Pacific Desk of the W.T.O. Institute for Training and Technical Cooperation, said geography and distance are also seen as a cost for these small island nations.
“The second challenge is the size of the population because for some small islands, they have 8,000 or 10,000 people it is costly to ship merchandise to those areas. Another challenge is climate change.
“In all the Pacific Island countries, only Papua New Guinea has more than eight million people, other countries below one million, some countries have 10,000, Samoa is close to 200,000.”
Mr. Luanga said with the right policy and framework, right partnerships and the support of the international community, the Pacific Islands can overcome these challenges.
“Telecommunication, for example is reducing distance, internet is connecting the world, you have the cable, which allows for high speed internet access, and now you can order almost everything online, it helps with trade facilitation,” he told the Business team.
“The Pacific is on the road of maritime traffic, so how to organise the shipment as a group, for example a ship stopping in Tonga, Samoa and then Vanuatu, that should be organised, maybe have a proposed Immigration of shipping, regional shipping company.”
“The number of people can be an issue if there is no money. You maybe hundreds, millions, but if you are very poor, you don’t have any capital to buy, what is important is not only the density, which of course provides labour, but it is the demand that has money.”
Mr. Luanga said since Samoa graduated from Least Developed Country (L.D.C.) status, its income has been increasing and people are getting richer.
“We will be having a few more countries graduating from the L.D.C. status, Samoa did graduate, and the other countries like Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu will be graduating soon, so it means positive things are taking place on this part of the world.”
Pacific Islands Forum Permanent Representative to the W.T.O., Merewalesi Falemaka said graduating from L.D.C. also poses some challenges for the Pacific Island countries.
“There are certain privileges that they enjoyed as L.D.C. When they graduate they are expected to take on a lot more obligations and the W.T.O. is always ready to assist these countries as they graduate through the Pacific Islands Forum.”