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Trade On Top Of MSG Senior Officials Agenda

The ratification of the Melanesian Free Trade Agreement will be one of the key priority areas discussed during the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Senior Officials Meeting which continues today.
11 Feb 2020 18:03
Trade On Top Of MSG Senior Officials Agenda
Members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Senior Officials Meeting at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva on February 10, 2020. Photo: Pinkan Tulung

The ratification of the Melanesian Free Trade Agreement will be one of the key priority areas discussed during the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) Senior Officials Meeting which continues today.

The meeting is attended by representatives from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), the main pro-independence movement from New Caledonia. Indonesia is an associate member

The meeting is at the Grand Pacific Hotel, Suva. It will be followed by two days of ministeral meetings.

The Director General of the MSG Secretariat Ambassador Amena Yauvoli said the ratification of the Melanesian Free Trade Agreement (MSGTA) benefits the countries themselves in terms of trade.

“We go to Solomon Islands to Port Vila, Papua New Guinea, you see Fijian products on the shelves.

“This trade has been ongoing in the Melanesia, under the MSGTA 3, which is the Melanesian trade agreement at the moment, but the Free Trade Agreement goes beyond just trading goods.

“It is trading services as well, and also recognises movement of people across borders. So that’s why its ratification is really critical in order to operationalise the agreement.

“Right now it’s just Fiji and Solomon Islands that have signed the agreement. But we need the other two to sign, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu before any two can ratify in order to operationalise the agreement.

He said in terms of the other two parties, it’s a national decision for them to make.

“So we can’t force them, but they have already agreed that the legal instruments of the agreement is ready to be signed and they are probably consulting internally again.

“But that’s part of our work this year through a programme manager dealing with trade and investment, who has been tasked, to pursue the signing of this agreement with those two other members, before a ratification can be executed,” Mr Yauvoli said.

Political security agendas

In terms of the political security agendas, Mr Yauvoli said there are political issues like the referendum on New Caledonia Indepence.

“This issue was the reason why MSG was set up.

“The decolonisation of New Caledonia, where we had a first referendum in 2018. The results were astounding because not many people expected the results particularly 57 per cent. The next referendum will be in September this year.

“So we are supporting them on two fronts, one to prepare them for the next referendum.

“And secondly, on the other hand is to provide support towards institutionally strengthening their competencies, should they become a government, at the end of this year. There is lots of work that needs to be done.

“And we have been fortunate enough to work very closely with their FLNKS because they are an original member of the organisation.”

On the security issues, he noted that they have regional security strategy which they have just drafted.

“This regional security strategy looks at the whole spheres of security, including climate change.

“Only our leaders will need to endorse it, so that it becomes part of the policies of the sub region.

“ Then we have the arts and culture. This is a new creation into the secretary.

“A new creation of what I meant is arts and culture through the Melanesian Arts and Cultural Festival has been continuing since 1999.

“But to institutionalise this issue into the organisation, last year was the first time that we did it.

“So we brought it in, noting the importance of culture and arts and sports as the glue that binds Melanesians together.”

Feedback: maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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